I recently returned from the Building a Grad Nation Summit. The event drew hundreds to Washington, D.C., including parents, kids, educators, community organizers, nonprofit personnel, government officials and business leaders. We all arrived with one shared goal: ending the high school dropout crisis.
Presented by America’s Promise Alliance, the summit provided a valuable overview of progress and remaining challenges to increase high school graduation and ensure young people have the skills to succeed in college and the 21st century workforce. The event also offered numerous opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices.
In a panel discussion about what’s working to keep youth on target for success, we delved into BGCA’s Be Great: Graduate program. I explained how it identifies youth at risk of dropping out and provides them 1-to-1 mentoring and tutoring to get back on track to graduate. We also discussed the Club Experience; how a fun environment combined with caring, dedicated staff are the critical elements in a success ratio that keeps kids coming – and returning – to the Club.
At the summit, I was joined by many outstanding educators and nonprofit leaders including (center) Dr. Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and (right) John Gomperts, president/CEO of the Alliance.
Interacting with so many likeminded individuals committed to our nation’s young people was exhilarating. It was similar to how I’d felt a couple days earlier at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in Madison, Wis.
Michael Johnson is CEO of the Dane County Club. He’d invited me to an event kicking off their new six-year, $15 million campaign to help up to 10,000 Club members succeed in life. It’s a major new strategic move for the Club, which currently serves about 2,400 kids a year. Their new strategy will focus on the core outcome areas and build on the academic success model.
The Club’s shift in strategy is the result of a year-long organizational evaluation, which included interviewing about 400 community members of varying ages, professions and demographics. After analyzing the feedback, what the Club needed to do became clear.
The $15 million won’t be used to build facilities. Rather, it will expand programs to more schools (the Club opened sites in Madison’s four high schools in 2012), establish programs for at-risk students, and support classroom work. The Club’s goal is that at least 90 percent of participants will graduate from high school prepared for college. And that’s definitely exhilarating.