BY LATOYA LIVINGSTON
It is an unfortunate fact, but nearly one-fourth of all students—and nearly forty percent of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students—fail to graduate with their class. In an effort to combat those numbers, AT&T launched its “Aspire Initiative” in 2008, which is specifically focused on confronting the high school dropout crisis and to help ensure that students will graduate prepared for the future challenges of continuing education and the workforce. While education funding has been hit hard these past few years, the $100 million philanthropic program is doing its part to ensure that technology-based programs aren’t a casualty to budgeting push and pull. Yesterday, Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s Chairman and CEO, upped the ante when he pledged an additional $250 million investment into its Aspire Initiative to a crowd of hundreds at America’s Promise Alliance’s “Building a Grad Nation” Summit. This came on the heels of Charlene Lake’s—AT&T’s Sr. Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability Officer—nationwide announcement of the investment on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien” earlier that same morning.
AT&T Aspire, the largest education initiative in AT&T’s history, is designed to “support high school success and workforce readiness.” It includes four primary components:
- Grants to school districts and nonprofit organizations focused on high school retention and better preparing students for college and/or the workforce.
- Job shadowing for 100,000 students, in conjunction with Junior Achievement, giving students the chance to see firsthand the job skills they will need to be successful in the future.
- Commissioning the next chapter of major research on the high school dropout issue and solutions by directly engaging education practitioners.
- Underwriting Dropout Prevention summits, organized by America’s Promise Alliance, which will explore the high school dropout crisis and ways to address it.
In addition, there is the AT&T Aspire Local High School Impact Initiative Request for Proposal (RFP). This program is focused on high school success and college and career readiness programs that will maintain AT&T’s commitment to support local organizations that are delivering results that help reduce the dropout rates in their communities.
LATOYA LIVINGSTON is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney with years of experience working in the public and private sector. Attorney Livingston joins MMTC after performing pro bono work for the organization last year.