WEDU PBS is working alongside five other Florida stations to help communities address the high school dropout crisis. 92% of students believe they will graduate from high school, but only 7 out of 10 will actually graduate. They have the will. They just need our support to find the way.

Stories of Champions

The American Graduate initiative is helping to reshape the story from a crisis to an opportunity for success. By celebrating and telling the story of “movers” in the community and inviting others to share their personal "Stories of Champions," American Graduate can inspire millions to identify simple or scalable ways they can become American Graduate Champions.


2015 Champions

Edna Fields BaileyAmerican Graduate Champion: Edna Fields Bailey

Edna Fields Bailey is the co-founder and principal at OASIS Middle School, a charter school for at-risk, low-income students in Bradenton, Florida. OASIS ("Outstanding Achieving Students Influence Success") offers not only classes in language arts, science, math, service learning and technology, but also instruction in drama and martial arts, plus specialists in ESE, speech pathology and occupational therapy.  Ms. Bailey has been instrumental in incorporating innovative programs such as “Take Theater Ensemble,” a program that encourages students to write, produce and act in plays based on their own difficult circumstances.  The goal of OASIS is to enhance fundamental skills in an intimate, family-oriented educational setting.  In keeping with this goal, Ms. Bailey has incorporated a strict no bullying policy that is strongly enforced.  As a result of these influences, OASIS students are better prepared for success in academics, on-time graduation, careers goals and life. Watch Video


Kelley BeallAmerican Graduate Champion: Kelley Beall

As a dedicated teacher and trainer in early childhood education, Kelley Beall engages audiences with her energy and enthusiasm and strives to meet the challenges that early childhood educators face in capturing and engaging young children while at the same time keeping up with the rapidly changing demands being placed upon them.  It is for these reasons she looked beyond the classroom resources that were available to early childhood educators and decided to create, in partnership with WEDU PBS and the Jim Henson Company, a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program for early learners developed around the popular PBS series, Sid the Science Kid. For her work on the program, Kelley received a first place 2012 PBS Digital Innovator Award, the only early learning educator chosen for this honor. To date the program has served more than 4,000 students in the district’s VPK and Head Start programs and plays a significant role in getting students excited about learning and preparing them for success in school. In addition to Kelley’s work with the Sid the Science Kid program, she also works closely with WEDU’s education department in developing and implementing professional development workshops on the use of Florida PBS LearningMedia for district teachers. She advocates and trains teachers on how to incorporate this valuable resource into lesson plans and activities that keep students engaged in learning and on the path to graduation. Watch Video


Terry BoehmAmerican Graduate Champion: Terry Boehm

As the executive director of the Pinellas Education Foundation, Terry Boehm has been involved in directing education foundations for more than 25 years and is instrumental in providing financial and material support impacting the lives of thousands of Pinellas County Schools’ students.  Terry’s latest initiative is “Future Plans,” a web-based assessment and guidance program that helps students evaluate their interest and matches them with careers for which they may be best suited. He worked with local schools, state legislators and the education foundation to pull together resources needed to implement the program. Now all Pinellas County high school students are required to participate in the “Future Plans” website before graduating and the program is being evaluated as a potential model for the entire state of Florida. Terry is an education innovator that utilizes the latest technology to help train and motivate students. Watch Video


Event Photos

On October 1, 2015 WEDU held a special event honoring three outstanding educators for their commitment, courage and innovation in the classroom – Edna Fields Bailey, Kelley Beall and Terry Boehm. These individuals were named American Graduate Champions as part of American Graduate Day, held October 3, 2015. Elizabeth Sembler, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and WEDU PBS Board Member, spoke at the event.


2014 Champions

Kenny IrbyAmerican Graduate Champion: Kenny Irby

In 2008 Pinellas County, Florida had one of the highest drop-out rates for African-American males in the country. As a means of addressing the issue, Kenny Irby with assistance from The Poynter Institute and the Tampa Bay Rays Foundation created The Write Field, a dynamic monthly mentoring program designed to improve the academic performance and life skills of selected middle school boys. Since the program’s inception, Kenny has recruited mentors and developed partnerships with local schools, law enforcement, businesses and community groups. Now in its third year, The Write Field graduated 33 young writers in May 2014. Watch Video


Melissa EricksonAmerican Graduate Champion: Melissa Erickson

Melissa Erickson, a three-term president of the Hillsborough County Public Schools Parent Teacher Association, has always valued family and education. In 2012, Melissa founded the Alliance for Public Schools Foundation, made up of a committee of community members working to give a voice to parents on matters concerning Florida’s educational landscape and to promote academic achievement and successful graduation. Through the Alliance, Melissa was instrumental in the creation of Parent University, a program that provides free classes and information focused on academic and support programs in Hillsborough County Public Schools, effective strategies families can use to help every child succeed, and ways to advocate for necessary resources. Melissa has been acknowledged many times for her leadership in youth education, including recognition as a Champion of Change from the White House in 2010. Watch Video


Robert VicariAmerican Graduate Champion: Robert Vicari

In 2010, Lakewood High School was put on a list of Florida’s most struggling schools, after five D state ratings in a row and poor test score data. However, by 2013, under Bob Vicari’s leadership and for the first time, Lakewood received an A rating, a move from the lowest 5% in the state to the top 25%. Bob attributes the school’s success to a climate change at the school, an increase in individual attention for the students, a strong teaching staff and a lot of people simply working well together. In addition to his busy schedule as principal, Bob also mentors students as a part of Florida’s Take Stock in Children, a mentoring and scholarship program for at-risk students. One of his mentees went on to become the valedictorian of Lakewood’s 2012 graduating class. Watch Video

American Graduate Day 2015

American Graduate Day is a live, seven-hour multiplatform broadcast that leverages the power and reach of public media to focus on those organizations and individual Champions keeping kids on the path to graduation. American Graduate Day centers on the critical themes of: Career Readiness and College Completion, Caring Consistent Adults, Dropout Prevention and Re-engagement, Early Education, More and Better Learning, Special Needs, and STEAM. Journalists, leaders, and celebrities join together to raise awareness of the incredible work being done across the country to keep kids in school. The broadcast and online event features a mix of national and local segments that showcase how community organizations and individuals provide support, advice, and intervention services to at-risk students, families, and schools.

Ongoing Projects

Free workshops for educators

WEDU has been awarded a generous $5,500 grant from the Impact Polk initiative of the GiveWell Community Foundation. The award will support a series of free workshops for early learning providers, K-12 educators or families throughout Polk County and will supply equipment for demonstrating PBS digital education resources.

Free Tuesdays at Glazer Children’s Museum

First Tuesday of each month: WEDU and Glazer Children’s Museum partner once a month for a fun-filled afternoon of activities, each featuring a different character appearance. Special guests have included Cat in the Hat, Sid the Science Kid, and Clifford the Big Red Dog!

Visit the Past Projects Archive

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Mentoring Information

Additional Resources

American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen is a public media initiative, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help students stay on the path to graduation and future success. For more information visit