According to the latest national data available from a 2013 Education Week report, an estimated 1 million students will fail to graduate this year.
On Nov. 8., elected leaders and youth professionals from more than 30 cities, school districts and youth-related agencies from King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties will gather in Bellevue to focus on raising the high school graduation rate.
They will share their best and most promising ideas and practices to reduce drop-out levels and increase graduation rates in the Northwest, all with the goal of reaching students such as:
- Carlos Reyes Herrera, 17, of Seattle's Cleveland High School. His first language is Spanish he learned from his parents who emigrated from Mexico, and he says, he never really thought school was important. "When I first attended high school I didn't do any of my homework assignments or care much about it. I wasn't motivated and my grades suffered because of my lack of effort."
- Javonte Henderson, 17, of Bellevue's Sammamish High School. Javonte was struggling and he watched his three older brothers struggle and fail in school. He says, "two of them couldn't handle the pressure and it led them to drop out."
The City of Bellevue is hosting the conference -- Nov. 8, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Westin Bellevue Hotel. The event is sponsored by America's Promise and AT&T, with DeVry University, Bezos Foundation and SOAR.
Confirmed speakers include: Ford Roosevelt, educator, human rights advocate and grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; and Leonard Pitts, Pulitzer Prize winning author and Miami Herald columnist, who writes about race, politics and culture.
The event is part of the Grad Nation national campaign to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate nationwide by 2020. The City of Bellevue received a $15,000 grant from America's Promise to host the event.
Locally, there have been many organizations working to improve graduation rates. The summit will bring together many of these agencies and collaborations throughout the Seattle/Tacoma area, including: City of Bellevue; SOAR (a King County Collaborative building effective partnerships for children, youth and families); regional education collaborative entities, such as: Eastside Pathways, Community Coalition for Educational Results, United Way; School's Out Washington, King County Youth Development Executives; Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; Kitsap County; City of Shoreline; Bellevue School District; Tacoma School District; Puget Sound Education School District; Seattle Urban League; several districts throughout King and Pierce Counties working within collaborative models to participate in programs such as Washington State's initiative Building Bridges and the federal government's initiative Race to the Top; and an array of youth-related agencies, school districts and local municipalities in King County and Pierce County.
Although there is still progress to be made, there is some good news from the Education Week study. The nation's high school graduation rate is improving. It is currently at almost 78 percent, the highest rate in over 30 years.
The summit will provide up to 300 policy makers with opportunities to exchange information such as data; what is working; program impacts; academic achievements; funding connections; best practices; and sustainability strategies.
The ultimate goal of the conference is to help all youth graduate from high school. According to Dr. Tim Mills, Bellevue Public Schools superintendent, "Bellevue Public Schools and many other organizations in the Puget Sound area have long supported young people, but our work won't be done until every child graduates from high school prepared for a successful future."
As for Javonte and Carlos -- they've both decided to make education a priority. Says, Carlos, "I realized I needed a Plan B. I realized that I want a good job. To do that, I know I need to graduate."
For more information about the Grad Nation Summit, contact Bellevue Family, Youth and Teen Services at 425-452-2834 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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