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Education, Business and Community Leaders in Philadelphia Gather for GradNation Community Summit

City leaders rally as an alliance in support of Project U-Turn’s new goals and strategies to increase the graduation rate and prepare young people for future opportunities

PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 13, 2017) – Today, city officials, leaders and supporters came together to rally for Project U-Turn, an alliance that unifies partners to increase the graduation rate and prepare young people for new opportunities. Project U-Turn announced its new goals focused on increasing re-engagement, reducing the number of young people who disconnect from high school and increasing the percent of connections to a post-secondary education, training program and/or employment.

The program began with welcoming remarks from Mayor James Kenney. Otis D. Hackney, Chief Education Officer, introduced a monologue titled “Not Ready” by Rashaan Brooks from Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and discussed how its powerful message coincides with the new strategies of Project U-Turn. The monologue is Brooks’ response to young black men in his neighborhood who feel they are not prepared for post-secondary education.

The performance of the monologue was followed by Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, who revealed Project U-Turn’s two new goals. By 2020, Project U-Turn aims to have increased the number of young people who re-engage to 70 percent and ensure that at least 50 percent of those who re-engaged earn their high school degree or equivalency through high quality programs. It’s second goal is to reduce the number of students who have disconnected from high school to 20 percent.

“Since Project U-Turn was created in 2006, the graduation rate has increased by 25 percent,” said Hite. “We must strongly recommit to boosting the high school graduation rate and The School District of Philadelphia is committed to its Anchor Goal 1 of ensuring that 100 percent of students are college and career ready.”

In response to these new goals, a panel discussion took place and allowed audience members to engage with the panel to ask questions. The panel featured:

  • Moderator: Ruth Curran Neild, Director of Philadelphia Education Research Consortium of Research for Action
  • Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth and Project U-Turn steering committee member
  • Marcus Delgado, Chief Executive Officer, One Bright Ray Community High School and Project U-Turn action team member
  • Christina Grant, Assistant Superintendent of the Opportunity Network and Project U-Turn steering committee member
  • Mitch Little, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity
  • Cheryl Logan, Chief of Academic Support, School District of Philadelphia and Project U-Turn steering committee member

Following the panel, Dr. Donald Generals, President of the Community College of Philadelphia, discussed the new post-secondary education component of Project U-Turn.  The goal is to increase the percent of young people who connect to a post-secondary education, training program and/or employment. Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network (the managing partner of Project U-Turn), closed the event informing attendees how they can stay informed and engaged.

The event follows the 10th anniversary of Project U-Turn, when the alliance underwent a strategic planning process to refresh its goals and recommit to Philadelphia’s young people. Since Project U-Turn’s inception in 2006 many partners have invested resources to create longstanding change and improve secondary education outcomes for young Philadelphians. Since 2006, the four-year graduation rate rose from 52 percent to 66 percent.

“Project U-Turn’s efforts have led to real impact and we recognize the alliance has helped make great improvements,” said Fulmore-Townsend. “Project U-Turn’s new goals and strategies can help ensure that partners’ efforts are maximized to increase re-engagement, reduce disconnection and increase post-secondary connections. We recognize that there is much more work to be done, but we will continue to do this work because every young person deserves the chance to achieve their dreams.”

To learn more about Project U-Turn’s renewed commitment, or visit www.projectuturn.net.


Education, Business and Community Leaders in Philadelphia Gather for GradNation Community Summit

Philadelphia Summit 50th of 100 Nationwide Examining Challenges and Solutions for Raising High School Graduation Rates and Preparing All Young People for Success

Philadelphia, PA - Community officials, business leaders, educators, parents and youth in Philadelphia announced plans today to examine local data and identify what's working and where challenges remain in the area's efforts to prepare young people for success in and out of school. Project U-Turn, a local youth initiative, hosted the Philadelphia GradNation Community Summit, entitled Rising to the Challenge: Expanding Citywide Commitment to Narrow the Skills Gap, which served as a launching pad for the development of a multi-year community action plan that outlines how Philadelphia will accelerate efforts to raise the high school graduation rate.

The Summit is the 50th of 100 that will be held around the country through 2016. The Summits are co-sponsored by America's Promise Alliance as part of its GradNation campaign, a national movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and increase postsecondary enrollment and completion.

"Being selected to host the 50th GradNation Community Summit in Philadelphia is an honor we are eager and excited to take on," said Project U-Turn Co-Chair, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend. "Since its inception in 2006, the Project U-Turn collaborative has maintained a clear focus on increasing the high school graduation rates of young people and reengaging those who have disconnected from school. Hosting the GradNation Community Summit will shed light on the importance of research-driven initiatives that drive our work locally, while also focusing on the regional and national landscapes as it relates to dropout prevention, reengagement and workforce preparation to ensure more young people are graduating from high school and securing successful, meaningful careers."

America's Promise was founded in Philadelphia in 1997 at the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, which brought together thousands of leaders from across the country, including four living presidents, to refocus the nation's attention on the needs of children and youth. Together, they signed a Summit Declaration on the steps of Independence Hall that serves as the guiding force for the movement they started and for America's Promise Alliance.

"We are honored to be a part of the summit this year. With the improvement that we have seen since Project U-Turn's inception, continual strides in terms of graduation rates have been made. The graduation rate is slowly rising and we are doing everything we can to move the needle," said Project U-Turn co-chair, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend.

The recently released 2015 Building a Grad Nation report announced that the national graduation rate now stands at 81.4 percent. For the third year in a row the country has been on track to meet the goal of 90 percent national graduation rate by the class of 2020.

While the city has seen significant increases in their graduation rates since 2006, Philadelphia is still about 15 percentage points lower than the national average.

"I'm proud to be here today at GradNation to talk about this very important issue of improving high school graduation rates and I commend this network on the tremendous progress made towards this goal in Philadelphia," said Governor Tom Wolf. "I'm committed to supporting the educational success of all students in Pennsylvania from pre-school through higher education."

The event was highlighted with other distinguished speakers, such as, Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

"Our Administration has been focused on improving the high school graduation rate and college attainment rate since day one so that our city's economy and quality of life may continue to grow. Addressing the skills gap is key to preparing our young people for success in higher-learning and the workforce," said Mayor Nutter. "I'm looking forward to the GradNation Summit and the positive next steps it will produce. I want to thank Project U-Turn, America's Promise Alliance and AT&T for bringing this summit to Philadelphia."

Other attendees include John Gomperts, President and CEO of America's Promise Alliance and Jennifer Kemp from the U.S Department of Labor.

"The Presidents' Summit for America's Future in Philadelphia signified more than the beginning of a campaign for America's youth; it provided a call to action to all Americans to take responsibility within their organizations and communities to make the promise of America real for every child," said John Gomperts, president & CEO, America's Promise. "The 50th GradNation Community Summit is an opportunity for us to recommit to that goal and advance the GradNation campaign so that all young people – in Philadelphia and beyond – can graduate from high school and have a chance to reach their full potential."

Research has shown that when young people have access to more of the essential academic, health and life resources, what America's Promise calls the "Five Promises" – caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others – the more likely they are to succeed academically and socially. Summit attendees will discuss how Philadelphia can better align programs supporting youth around these Five Promises.

The premier sponsor of the national GradNation Community Summits initiative is AT&T, whose support is part of AT&T Aspire, the company's $350 million commitment to graduate more students from high school ready for college and career. The other national sponsor is Southwest Airlines. Local sponsors for the event include IBM, Cozen O'Conner and Accenture.

"The business community has a huge stake in this issue, and working with educators, parents and nonprofits at the local level is the best way to ensure we stay on track. Our collective future depends on it, and it will take all of us working together to achieve it," commented J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid Atlantic.

For more information and to learn how to get involved visit www.gradnation.org. To learn more about Project U-Turn visit www.projectuturn.net.

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About Project U-Turn
Project U-Turn is a citywide campaign to understand, focus public attention on and, most importantly, resolve Philadelphia's dropout crisis through the use of a collective impact strategy. Project U-Turn is led by a cross-sector collaborative with representation from the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the Mayor's Office of Education (MOE), the city's Department of Human Services (DHS), family court, local foundations, and youth advocacy groups, as well as young people. The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is the backbone organization for the effort.

About America's Promise Alliance
America's Promise Alliance leads more than 400 organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to making the promise of America real for every child. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce. www.americaspromise.org


Jobs for the Future and Aspen Institute Award $6 Million to Philadelphia Youth Network on Behalf of Project U-Turn Collaborative

Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN), a nonprofit intermediary dedicated to equipping young people for academic achievement, economic opportunity and personal success is one of seven community collaborative grantees to receive three-year grants of $240,000-$270,000 per year to dramatically improve education and employment outcomes for opportunity youth, including young men of color, in communities across the country. Opportunity Youth is a term used to describe the 6.7 million young people—between the ages of 16 to 24 in the United States—who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market.

The awards were made by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Service (AFCS) in response to President Obama's call to action in launching My Brother's Keeper to promote successful outcomes for boys and men of color. Grant award recipients were selected after a rigorous and collaborative evaluation by JFF and AFCS. The grantees, representing a diverse portfolio of communities, are taking a cross-system, cross-sector approach towards improving outcomes for young people, with a particular focus on boys and men of color.

PYN serves as the backbone for the Project U-Turn collaborative, a cross-sector campaign focused on dropout prevention and re-engagement, and will work with members to implement and expand post-secondary bridging services at four E3 Centers to increase post-secondary persistence and success. E3 Centers are neighborhood-based service sites designed to help lower-skilled out-of-school youth and youth returning from juvenile placement to build literacy, numeracy, and 21st-century skills, attain a high school credential, and prepare for post-secondary education and careers. These Centers serve a high concentration of boys and men of color.

"The OYIF SIF will help us create a structured post-secondary bridging program that ensures a smoother pathway from secondary to post-secondary credential attainment for some of Philadelphia's most vulnerable young people," said Philadelphia Youth Network President and CEO, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend. "All of the partners involved in this work are thrilled to accept this opportunity. With this investment, the E3 centers will help youth transition into their post-secondary choice and build successful futures filled with economic prosperity and fulfillment."

These grants are funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) through its Social Innovation Fund (SIF). Launched by President Obama in 2009, the SIF tackles the difficult work of social change by applying innovative solutions that work, and making them work for more people. By embracing evidence-based strategies, the SIF is leading the way in guiding how government makes social change investments. In 2014 SIF grant competitions, CNCS prioritized "Traditionally Unserved and Underrepresented Geographic Areas and Populations" and "Presidential Initiatives to Expand Access to Opportunity," awarding almost $18 million in grants to organizations that focused on My Brother's Keeper priorities.

"The President has made investing in evidence-based interventions or 'what works' a key priority of his Administration and the My Brother's Keeper initiative. We applaud Jobs for the Future and the Aspen Institute on its selection of Social Innovation Fund grantees that have a track record of measurable impact, and a plan to get results and create clear pathways to college and career for young people in greatest need," said Michael Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for My Brother's Keeper.

It is estimated that the 6.7 million opportunity youth cost our country $250 billion annually in lost revenue, earnings, and increased social services. JFF and AFCS have selected a total of seven communities to partner with in an effort to build education and career pathways for these unemployed or underemployed young people.

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Project U-Turn is a citywide campaign to understand, focus public attention on and, most importantly, resolve Philadelphia's dropout crisis. It is led by a citywide collaborative whose members include representatives of the School District, City agencies, foundations, youth-serving organizations, parents and young people themselves. The collaborative is managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network, and operates as a subcommittee of the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success.

Jobs for the Future is a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure economic opportunity for all. We develop innovative career pathways and public policies, resulting in increased college readiness and success for students and a more skilled workforce for employers. For over 30 years, JFF has been a leader in building connections between education and work that expand opportunity and strengthen our economy. For more information, visit: www.jff.org.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service and champions community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov.


My Brother's Keeper Philadelphia

Seeking to improve outcomes for young people nationwide, particularly for boys and young men of color, President Obama established the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Challenge In September 2014. The challenge asks local leaders to implement a coherent "cradle-to-college-and-career strategy" for those individuals in their community who now lag behind their peers. It emphasizes using existing, evidence-based programs to develop a sustainable action plan. It calls upon community leaders to identify and partner with the people who run these programs in order to assess local needs and existing assets, determine collective priorities, and set common goals for improvement.

Under the current administration of Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Philadelphia has seen its on-time high school graduation rate increase by 12 percent. Despite these significant strides, the City still trails the national average (80%) by 15 percentage points. While it's important for us to recognize Philadelphia's recent success in increasing on-time high school graduation rates, it is critical to ensure that all youth graduate from high school. We must also close the skills gap between high school, and even college graduates, and the demands of local and national employers.

The campaign to reach MBK Milestone 3: Ensure All Youth Graduate from High School, will be led by Project U-Turn, Philadelphia's collaborative approach to dropout prevention, which is managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network. Through strategic partnerships with its key systems partners, Project U-Turn will coordinate and influence action steps to bring policy, programmatic interventions and resources to scale to support the emotional and academic needs of vulnerable populations of students and those with heightened risks of disconnection, including Black and Latino males, and those in foster care and juvenile justice systems.

Read the full MBK Philadelphia Action Plan

Philadelphia GradNation Summit

Project U-Turn and America's Promise Alliance will co-host the Philadelphia GradNation Summit on Friday, June 12th at Chemical Heritage Foundation. America's Promise Alliance is working with community partners to convene 100 GradNation Community Summits across the country through 2016. The GradNation Community Summits will hasten the United States' progress towards reaching the GradNation campaign goals. America's Promise's goal for the community summits is to fuel local collaborative action to increase high school graduation rates.

The summit theme, Rising to the Challenge: Expanding Citywide Commitment to Narrow the Skills Gap will address narrowing the skills gap between secondary education, college and Philadelphia's workforce to ensure our young people are prepared for economic success through four main avenues: Reengagement; Enriched Preparation; Post-Secondary Bridging; Workforce Preparation/Career Exposure.

During the summit, we will assess progress made towards narrowing the skills gap, celebrate our successes and refocus on the challenges that lie ahead. Representatives from various sectors will be invited to forge connections by joining local and national organizations and community leaders uniting to empower more young Philadelphians to graduate from high school on time and prepare for college, careers and successful futures. The summit will conclude with a Call to Action to drive momentum and coordinated action from all stakeholders in attendance. The ultimate measure of success will be an increase in awareness, engagement, sustained action and ultimately greater impact to inspire and mobilize all segments of the community to work toward better educational and economic outcomes for youth.


E3 Centers Featured in Center for Promise White Paper

In December, the Center for Promise (America's Promise Alliance), in collaboration with Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences released Back to School: Exploring Promising Practices for Re-Engaging Young People in Secondary Education a white paper on re-engagement as a follow-up to the 'Don't Call Them Dropouts' report, released in May of 2014. In October, seven youth from three of the Philadelphia's E3 Centers (Center City, West and Southwest) participated in a focus group facilitated by the Center for Promise to share their views on reengagement and their individual experiences as E3 students. E3 was one of eight programs featured in the publication, which focuses on the role that initiatives like Project U-Turn play in the reengagement process and is designed as a resource for educators, practitioners, community stakeholders, communications professionals and policymakers interested in supporting out-of-school youth who wish to obtain a high school credential. The paper also explores ways to strengthen and expand reengagement options for young people who need more time or alternative pathways to finish school.

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