WEDU & WUSF Awarded American Graduate Grant

Tampa, FL – Every year, throughout the United States, more than one million students drop out of high school. In 2009, Florida had more than 100,000 students who did not graduate from high school. If the national trend continues, over the next 10 years, it will cost the nation more than $3 trillion in lost wages, productivity and taxes which can lead to a rise in crime, homelessness and substance abuse. This lost potential will have huge impact on our economy, healthcare costs, workforce and global competitiveness for decades to come. Recognizing a need to help students stay on the path to graduation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), with participation from PBS, America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently announced an innovative new program, American Graduate, to combat the dropout crisis in this country, and WEDU and WUSF, both based in Tampa, have been awarded a grant totaling $135k to bring local awareness to the dropout epidemic – running rampant in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties specifically.

American Graduate brings public media together with key community stakeholders to improve student engagement and raise academic achievement. Local public radio and television stations are at the core of this initiative. These stations, located in 20 community “hubs” throughout the country, will serve as the center of community interest and activity around high school graduation rates. In Florida, $360k in American Graduate grant funding has been awarded to public media stations including WEDU and WUSF (Tampa), WDSC (Daytona); WJCT (Jacksonville); WLRN (Miami) and WFSU (Tallahassee). Together with schools and organizations already addressing the dropout crisis, the stations will provide their resources and services to raise awareness, coordinate action with community partners, and work directly with students, parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers and leaders to
lower the drop-out rate in their respective communities.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through support to CPB’s Teacher Town Halls and the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative, will give teachers a way to share their perspectives and experiences with helping all students graduate high school prepared for college and career.Public media is ideally positioned to help address the dropout crisis. Public radio and television stations are deeply rooted in the communities they serve. They understand local issues and, through their content, can educate and engage various stakeholders on the dropout problem, rally support and help coordinate efforts in communities, something experts say is crucial to a solution. In addition, public broadcasting has a long history of investing in content that targets older students and improving educational outcomes for kids most at risk of dropping out – kids from poor families, immigrants and other kids who face obstacles likely to keep them from graduating.

Ask any student whether he or she will graduate from high school, and the vast majority – 92 percent – say they expect to earn a diploma. For many of these students, the reality is much different. Only seven in 10 actually finish high school. When it comes to Hispanic, AfricanAmerican and Native American students, that statistic drops to six in 10. Reaching communities with a higher percentage of these population groups, WEDU and WUSF, along with the other community hub stations in Florida, are in a unique position to make a significant difference in high school graduation rates and positively affect the future health and welfare of the communities they serve. “With the support of this grant, and collaboration with the other public media stations in the state, WEDU will reenergize its commitment to education – the very foundation that our station was built on 54 years ago,” said Susan Howarth, President and CEO of WEDU. “We plan to work with many community partners and use WEDU’s multiple media platforms to improve high school graduation rates in our region,” Howarth said.