Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One in Three Hoping for One-of-a-Kind Awareness; Foundation's Multimedia Initiative to Use Students' Stories to Raise Awareness about Duval County's High Dropout Rate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One in Three Hoping for One-of-a-Kind Awareness; Foundation's Multimedia Initiative to Use Students' Stories to Raise Awareness about Duval County's High Dropout Rate

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

Aurora Foster struggled when she first got to high school - skipping classes, getting into trouble - and she watched her share of friends drop out. Now the 18-year-old is taking part in a program that she hopes will galvanize the community to help teens stay in school.

Foster, a senior at Robert E. Lee High School, will be one of about 20 students in Duval County featured in Jacksonville Public Education Fund's One in Three campaign.

The campaign, which will kick off this fall, will be a yearlong effort to bring together the community around the issue of improving public education and lowering the dropout rate. The name, One in Three, refers to the school system's 67 percent graduation rate.

The initiative will use the stories of students like Foster to grab the community's attention and mobilize it to develop a citywide agenda for education.

Foster, whose parents were largely absent from her childhood, was raised by her grandmother and watched two older brothers spend the better part of her life in prison.

Despite her initial struggles in high school, today Foster is a member of the National Honor Society and president of her graduating class.

"I hope that my story will inspire the people around me and the people after me and kids in elementary school to graduate, to go to college and graduate from college," she said. "To me it just gets the community involved, just like it got me involved."

One in Three's organizers want everyday people to host small conversations about education in their homes, businesses and community centers. The organization hopes those conversations and the ideas that flow from them will motivate the community to take responsibility for improving public schools.

"Our goal is to develop a collective action plan that is created by the community," said Rachael Tutwiler, the fund's manager of community engagement.

Organizers anticipate having an action plan by summer 2012.

The first step will be a public relations blitz that will include the use of social media, text messaging and yard signs similar to those used in political campaigns. The effort will cost the nonprofit $200,000 to $250,000. …

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