AT&T Launches $250 Million Aspire Initiative to Boost Graduation Rates, Pennsylvania Groups Urged to Apply

AT&T has announced the launch of a new $250 million, 5-year financial commitment aimed at helping more students graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers. The funding for AT&T Aspire – already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives, with more than $100 million invested since 2008 – will be available for organizations and institutions with a proven track record of success that are looking to use technology to connect with students in new and effective ways. Between now and April 18, 2012, AT&T is encouraging Pennsylvania organizations to apply for funding through the Local High School Impact Initiative Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

“AT&T Aspire works toward an America where every student graduates high school equipped with the knowledge and skills to strengthen the nation’s workforce,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said while announcing the extended commitment during a keynote address at the second annual Building a Grad Nation Summit.

The Washington, D.C., event convened by America’s Promise Alliance (, Civic Enterprises (, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University (, and the Alliance for Excellent Education ( brings together nearly 1,200 U.S. leaders to discuss progress and challenges in ending the high school dropout crisis.

“This is a significant investment in preparing the next generation of Americans to succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy,” said J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Pennsylvania.  “We hope organizations across Pennsylvania with a passion for dealing with this problem and a proven track record of success in increasing graduation rates will apply for funding.”

AT&T is looking to fund local programs that have strong, evidence-based practices grounded in the What Works Clearinghouse Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide and data-driven outcomes demonstrated to improve high school graduation rates.

Pennsylvania organizations interested in getting additional information or applying will find complete details on the RFP process at by clicking on the “Aspire Local Impact RFP” option.  Applications will be accepted between now and April 27. AT&T Aspire is already among the most significant U.S. corporate educational initiatives with more than $100 million invested since 2008.  The initiative has impacted more than one million U.S. high school students, helping them prepare for success in the workplace and college.

Through Aspire, AT&T has invested $1,077,900 in Pennsylvania since 2008. Organizations that have benefited include the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania; Communities In Schools of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County; Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania; Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia’s Children First Fund; and the United Way of York County, among others.  In collaboration with Junior Achievement, students across Pennsylvania also have participated in job shadowing events at AT&T facilities in the state, giving students a chance to make the connection between school and the workplace.

Drop-out rates are a serious issue in the United States. According to a report issued today by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, one in four students in the U.S. – more than 1 million each year – drops out. (AT&T is the lead sponsor of this report.)

Education experts believe that the lack of a high school degree significantly worsens job prospects, particularly in the challenging science, technology and math sectors. On average, a high school dropout earns 25 percent less during the course of his or her lifetime compared with a high school graduate and 57 percent less than a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Although the problem is serious, there are signs of progress according to the report:

  • The high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points nationally from 2001 to 2009.
  •  In 2001, the rate was 72.0 percent; by 2009, it had risen to 75.5 percent. From 2002 to 2009, six states experienced large gains in their graduation rates; 14 states made moderate gains; and four states made modest gains

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