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'My Idea' Mobilizes High School Students To Be Grad Nation Leaders

AT&T and America's Promise Alliance Program Empowers Youth to Become Part of the Solution to the Dropout Crisis Youth-Led Dropout Prevention Projects Engage Nearly 100,000 People in Direct Action or Awareness

Washington, District of Columbia, October 03, 2011

One in four public school students drop out before they finish high school. That is over one million students each year. Through the My Idea program, made possible due to generous funding from AT&T*, America’s Promise Alliance unleashed the power of young people to become a critical part of the solution in reversing the dropout crisis and improving outcomes for themselves and their peers. 

Selected for funding from applicants representing 35 states and the District of Columbia, high school age Idea Leaders partnered with local schools and organizations to transform their ideas into reality, dedicating three to 10 hours a week for the school year to encourage their peers to graduate and in turn made great strides in their own development. Idea Leaders gained improved problem solving, leadership and teamwork skills as well as a greater understanding of the dropout crisis and solutions. Many reported feeling inspired and empowered to make a difference.

The excitement of the student Idea Leaders was contagious and prompted fellow students, teachers, caring adults and decision makers to join forces to make the ideas into reality. In the end, the invitation to participate in these dropout prevention activities did not come from someone who was always in charge; it came from someone who had the same homework assignments and social pressures.

When asked about how their project impacted fellow students, one Idea Leader said, “Our peers who participated got to see what is possible when you get invested in your education. They got to feel important and put their education to work for others in a way that I think motivated them to keep learning and keep making a difference.”

AT&T’s $1 million contribution to America’s Promise Alliance has empowered young people nationwide with the opportunity to come up with their own ideas, carry them out and make a meaningful contribution to local efforts to prepare all young people for college, work and life. The My Idea program is part of America’s Promise Alliance’s Grad Nation Campaign, a 10-year initiative to mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce.

My Idea by the Numbers

  • 98 total projects – 33 year-long projects as well as 65 smaller projects in 10 targeted communities
  • My Idea projects reached 98,829 people through event attendance, tutoring or mentoring and material distribution
  • 500 youth planners assisted the Idea Leaders with their projects, spending an average of 10 hours a week of their time
  • Over 85% of Idea Leaders were first time grant writers and averaged 17 years old when projects were completed

“They’ve made a little idea that I had over a year ago come to life. I've gotten to watch something that I thought would never happen become a reality,” said Idea Leader Colton Bradford from Mobile, Alabama.  “I hope that students all across the U.S. will continue to look for ways to help decrease the dropout rate because we are the future. We are tomorrow.”  

The issue hit close to home for several Idea Leaders, who came forward because they personally knew someone who had dropped out or had their own struggles. One Idea Leader shared, “My sister dropped out her senior year. She had the worst misconceptions about dropping out.”  That Idea Leader and many others were on a campaign to share with their peers the importance of staying in school and finding the right support system to succeed.  

“The My Idea program has been such a powerful part of our Grad Nation campaign,” said Marguerite Kondracke, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “To witness the creativity, passion and impact these young leaders have shared with us and their communities and the way they’ve engaged so many people in this work, there is not a doubt in my mind that we can end this crisis and become the leader once again in high school and college completion.”

The My Idea program projects aligned around several themes, including:

  • Positive peer pressure through mentoring
  • Rallying together for change
  • Awareness through creative expression
  • Engagement through service
  • Promoting healthy behaviors
  • Exploring solutions beyond the community

One participant noted about his music project under the creative expression theme: “If it wasn’t for Beats Rhymes & Life (BRL), I would have dropped out this year,” said a ninth grade participant in the BRL Studio Project in Oakland, California. “This program is the only reason I come to school right now.”

Youth leaders captured their effort through written articles and videos to inspire others to get involved. All of the reports are available on-line at www.americaspromise.org/myideagrants.

“The My Idea projects serve as an inspiration and reminder to us all of the importance and success of directly engaging students in our efforts to curb the dropout crisis,” said Charlene Lake, Senior Vice President-Public Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer for AT&T.  “Working with community partners, Idea Leaders implemented their own ideas from start to finish, learning important skills and inspiring their peers along the way.”

AT&T’s contribution is one of the largest gifts ever made to America’s Promise Alliance’s Grad Nation Campaign and was made through AT&T Aspire, a $100 million commitment with the goal of helping students achieve their best possible futures. Launched in 2008, AT&T Aspire is one of the largest-ever corporate commitments to address high school success leading to college and career readiness.

The Grad Nation campaign is the second phase of America’s Promise Alliance’s highly successful Dropout Prevention Campaign launched in April 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, they sponsored and helped co-convene 105 Dropout Prevention Summits in all 50 states bringing more than 40,000 policy, business, education, community and faith leaders together with nonprofits, parents and young people to discuss the dropout crisis in their communities and begin a dialogue on solutions around it. AT&T was also a sponsor of this work.

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