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American Graduate Day September 22

Actresses America Ferrera (l) and Aimee Garcia speak about the value of their high school education.
Actresses America Ferrera (l) and Aimee Garcia speak about the value of their high school education.

Over the summer we learned an unsettling statistic: the Georgia high school graduation rate is lower than first reported. Because of a new federal reporting formula, the state’s graduation went from 81 percent to 67 percent initially. But the Atlanta Journal Constitution discovered in mid-August through an open records request that “30,751 students left high school without a diploma, nearly double the 15,590 initially reported.”

There are multiple reasons for these numbers. But the more important consideration is what do we do about it? For starters, we can participate in American Graduate Day, on September 22 and watch the program American Graduate that airs on GPB Saturday, September 22 starting at 1 p.m.

Watching a show that focuses on the drop out crisis may not seem like “action” but it’s a powerful start. American Graduate is an event that puts high school students, thought leaders, celebrity activists like Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera and CSI’s Hill Harper in one room to dialogue about the issues surrounding keeping students in school. The information exchange is happening through multiple platforms: television, radio, print and social media.

You can add your opinions to the discussion through the American Graduate Facebook page.

The use of of that social media platform has garnered some staggering posts. Consider this Facebook post: The life expectancy of the least educated is falling. Early death is hopefully a good argument to students as to why they need to finish high school by any means and then acquire a higher degree.

Understandably students must deal with multiple, complex and difficult issues that make just going to school an obstacle. Read about this young woman on StoryCorps recall attending high school while homeless and living in one room with seven siblings.

Getting students to open up about what they are going through is another way to take action. We may think we know all the answers. But we don’t because we may not know what all of the problems are. We need to ask students what they think should be done.

We’re offering them a platform to do that through our “Stop the Drop” video contest. Students can enter by uploading public service announcements to their  YouTube accounts and then filling out the entry form and including the link. There is plenty of time. The deadline is Monday, December 3, 2012 at 5 p.m. The winner will be announced during our high school football championships.