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March 22, 2012

AT&T Launches Quarter-Billion Dollar Campaign to Reduce High School Drop-Outs

By Shawn Hebert, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Telecommunications giant AT&T (News - Alert) is launching a $250 billion, five year “socially innovative” campaign to assist graduating high school students entering the work force.

AT&T will incorporate the new campaign in its Aspire program, which has already invested over $100 million in education initiatives over the past four years. The campaign will bridge the gap between students and technology, using interactive gamification and social media.

AT&T said it will also provide mentoring and internships with the company.

“It will take all of us working together and supporting educators’ hard work to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college,” said AT&T George State President Sylvia Russell. “American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It’s time to commit more innovation and resources to the task.”

In a new report co-sponsored by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America's Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the national drop-out rate is 25 percent, or nearly 1 million students each year.

Lucrative positions in fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are therefore unfulfilled. STEM jobs are projected to grow 17 percent over the next six years, with workers in these positions earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM employed counterparts. Substantial lobbying in Washington, D.C. has been ongoing to raise awareness of STEM educational issues.

Last year, Des Moines East High School in Iowa earned a $10,000 grant under AT&T's Aspire initiative for its “Project YOU” peer-to-peer mentoring program. "We have had a really great time being part of the Project YOU! Program," said Brooke Wilson, a student at East High School. "We've not only made a lot of friends with 9th grade students, but have made high school more fun for everyone. We love the idea of our school having positive activities promoted around campus and getting students recognized for their work and achievements."

In order to pre-qualify for funding, state organizations must show evidence of a drop-out prevention program and are asked to submit applications to the Local High School Impact Initiative Requests for Proposals. 

Edited by Braden Becker

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