Students from Pontiac, Melvindale and Lincoln High Schools in the metro Detroit area gathered last week to discuss how to improve their high schools and communities at an event sponsored by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and America’s Promise Alliance. After viewing the documentary Waiting for “Superman,” a film on the state of education in the United States, students talked about their own school experiences—and how to turn negative situations into positive ones.
The conversation is part of the Alliance’s Grad Nation campaign to mobilize the nation to end the high school dropout crisis and UWSEM’s goal is to cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2013.
“We want all schools to be high-performing schools, and great schools come in many different forms--public, private and charter,” said Kelly M. Green, executive vice president, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We’re thrilled to be working with America’s Promise Alliance to help elevate the voices of the young people participating in today’s conversation.”
The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center estimates that 31 percent of Detroit’s Class of 2008 did not graduate on time. According to United Way, the metro Detroit area is home to 178 high schools, including 34 that are considered dropout factories, which means fewer than 60 percent of freshmen progress to their senior year on time.
“By tackling the issue community by community, we believe that we can end the high school dropout crisis,” said Marguerite W. Kondracke, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance. “By giving Detroit students a chance to help their peers stay in school, they’re making huge strides in improving outcomes for their communities. We’re proud to stand next to each student and each community in their efforts.”
The event continues a long tradition of collaboration between the Alliance and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. In 2008, the Alliance launched its Dropout Prevention Campaign, sponsoring high school dropout prevention summits throughout the country. The Detroit summit, with United Way for Southeastern Michigan as the lead convener, resulted in a $10 million prevention initiative, the Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund, to target high schools with dropout rates of 40 percent or higher. Despite economic woes in Southeastern Michigan, $4 million has already been raised for the Venture Fund.
The United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes the caring power of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to improve lives in measurable and lasting ways throughout the region. The organization is led by a diverse group of volunteers from business, labor, government, human services, education and the community. United Way provides opportunities to invest in the metropolitan Detroit community and is a leader in convening partners to impact local residents each year by providing individuals with the three building blocks for a good life: Education, Income and Basic Needs.