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 (http://www.americaspromise.org/), Civic Enterprises (http://www.civicenterprises.net/home.html), The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University (www.every1graduates.org/), and the Alliance for Excellent Education (http://www.all4ed.org/) 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 www.att.com/education-news 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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