Newspaper article News Sentinel

Project GRAD Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Urban Youth Succeed ; Partnership Provides Path for Higher Education

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Project GRAD Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Urban Youth Succeed ; Partnership Provides Path for Higher Education

Article excerpt

Who contributed to the success you enjoy today?

For more than 29,000 students and their families in Knoxville's urban center, Project GRAD Knoxville has been integral to their web of support and overall success.

Fifteen years ago Knox County Schools, Project GRAD Knoxville and this community made a promise to the students of 14 urban schools: Graduation Really Achieves Dreams. Dozens of partners collaborated to invest in this initiative to infuse hope and opportunity into communities of concentrated challenges. We are extremely proud of the partnership between Knox County Schools and Project GRAD that has spanned 15 years and is still going strong. We are thankful for this community's investment and continued support.

When the GRAD partnership first began in 2001, the students at Austin-East and Fulton High Schools had a 50/50 chance of graduating, and only a third of those graduates were enrolling in postsecondary education. The Project GRAD opportunity was established to help move the needle on the high school graduation rates at these high schools, then increase the number of those graduates entering and completing some form of higher education.

Fifteen years later the combined high school graduation rate has risen to 81 percent, and 57 percent of those graduates are enrolling in higher education. Pellissippi State Community College and the University of Tennessee have provided 4,098 Summer Institute experiences.

Student access to postsecondary education has grown tremendously over the past decade. The collaborative focus at the local, state and national levels has now shifted to college success and persistence. Nationally 10 percent of students from low-income circumstances finish postsecondary credentials. The GRAD postsecondary completion rate for students of similar circumstances is 46 percent. Project GRAD remains passionate about supporting youth from kindergarten throughout their chosen postsecondary path.

We celebrate all of our scholars and hundreds of postsecondary success stories. It has been our honor to support them as they dream, achieve and actualize the life they want to live. Today many of those scholars have returned to (or remained in) the Knoxville area and are stepping into leadership positions as young adults. Four of those alums work full time at GRAD serving a new generation of GRAD scholars. The drive to give back has been nurtured in these young leaders and has come full circle to enhance our entire community. GRAD alums are making their mark across Knoxville in various venues.

The service delivery model of Project GRAD has evolved over time to adapt to changes in the Knox County Schools' strategic direction. GRAD sites that are now also Community School sites are served through GRAD's kindergarten through grade eight college/career access coaching. …

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