Public Media Is Helping
Local Communities Keep
More Students on the Path
to a High School Diploma,
College & Successful Careers

About the Initiative

Graduation-Caps-backToday’s global economy demands a more educated workforce. Communities are working together to improve 21st century learning and increase high school graduation rates to prepare more students for college and successful careers. Public media stations across the country are at the center of this community-based work — from quality content and forums to local partnerships and classroom resources — to increase understanding and access to solutions.

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is a long term public media commitment, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. Public media plays a significant role building individual activity, community capacity, and national awareness.

The dropout crisis demands attention now, and we are rising to the challenge of doing our part to address this problem. A new study conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education finds that the American Graduate initiative has succeeded in building community capacity to meet the national priority of ending America’s high school dropout crisis. LEARN MORE

Working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, and The Alliance for Excellent Education, and over 1000 local partners, the initiative puts faces on the numbers and increases understanding of the risks and solutions through national and local content, covering all facets of the issue for broadcast, web and  mobile platforms. In addition, American Graduate is engaging and empowering teachers, parents and students to help those most at risk of dropping out through community collaborations and classroom resources.

More than 80 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have joined forces with over 1000 partners and at-risk schools to shed light on the problem and share solutions. Through American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, public media is increasing national and local reporting, convening diverse local stakeholders, and providing access to free, digital classroom resources for teachers and parents. By working with the community, public broadcasting stations are increasing the footprint of progress, reaching more children and families to seed the foundation for a prosperous economic future for our country.

our strategy

ag-flyer-promoAmplify and spread solutions. Empowering individuals.

PROGRAMMING: Local public media stations have broadcast more than 1700 hours of inspiring stories behind the statistics to increase understanding and highlight solutions.

RESULT:  Community partners confirmed that public media stations told the story of the dropout crisis in a way that enabled more people to get involved. As a result, more communities are implementing solutions to help improve outcomes for youth.

Local Examples...

  • In Cincinnati, CET produced radio and video spots telling the story of the dropout crisis in their community, what is working locally, and the challenges that remain.  
  • In Phoenix, the Latino Public Radio Consortium, Radio Campesina used Mexican Independence Day events to educate the community about dropout prevention practices.
  • In Washington, DC, WAMU produced over 70 stories on different aspects of the dropout crisis and local solutions.
  • Nashville Public Television’s special “Translating the Dream” took an in-depth look at the unique challenges ELL and immigrant students face in achieving on-time graduation.
  • In New Mexico, KNME’s Public Square program focused on the dropout crisis from the student’s perspective.
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting shined a light on the dropout crisis through their original production "Can I Kick It?" which featured the testimonies of prominent Mississippians to inspire at-risk youth.
  • In Los Angeles, PBS SoCal highlighted local community organizations working to help students graduate through “Community Champions” local on-air spots.


New Voices. Champions for Students

COMMUNITY EVENTS: Local public media stations have hosted over 1000 screenings, forums, volunteer fairs, and media workshops to empower caring community members with knowledge and resources to help at-risk families.

RESULT: recent American Graduate Community Town Halls reported a significant shift in awareness and understanding of the issue and how to solve it locally, as well as an increase in participants' intent to act.

Local Examples...

  • teacher-speaking2"American Graduate Day" is a national seven-hour television broadcast produced by WNET each year to highlight the work of more than 20 national organizations and leaders working together to help children succeed, and connect viewers with opportunities to get involved.
  • American Graduate Teacher Town Halls convened more than 2,000 teachers nationwide to discuss how teachers and communities can work to address the dropout crisis and the specific role culture and diversity can play in supporting students.
  • American Graduate Community Town Halls, modeled on the success of the Teacher Town Halls, extended the dialogue beyond the classroom with businesses, parents, intervention and faith-based organizations. Key themes emerged around the need for caring adults from all sectors, access to quality early childhood education, relevant curriculum that connects school and career choices, and peer supports for students.
  • American Graduate stations provided local forums for young people to examine the consequences of dropping out. Chicago’s WTTW and Free Spirit Media provided training to students in documentary media production, and WHYY in Philadelphia offered media training through summer camps and local after school programs.


New partnerships. Shared vision. Catalyzing change.

PARTNERSHIPS: Public media stations have partnered on the ground with over 1000 civic, business, faith-based and intervention organizations, to bring disparate stakeholders together and create sustainable, high impact coalitions around comprehensive solutions.

RESULT: Community partners have reported that public media facilitated greater focus and collaboration among community organizations.

Local Examples...

  • In St. Louis, Nine Network brought together a network of over 50 community partners to align key strategies and support for students’ success.
  • WFYI in Indianapolis hosted a public policy summit in partnership with the Indiana Partnership Center and other state organizations that moved the community to take collective action to reduce chronic absenteeism.
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting worked with the state legislature and community organizations such as the NAACP and 100 Black Men to identify solutions that can change local outcomes.
  • Texas PBS worked with local partners to broadcast a community forum to discuss solutions that have been successful in other states to keep students in school. Girls, Inc. participants served as citizen journalists to capture interviews with audience members and panelists.
  • Detroit Public Television worked with The Center for Michigan on "The Public Agenda for Public Education." This report reflects the results of more than 250 community conversations that engaged thousands of citizens across the state of Michigan on education topics.
  • WHRO in Virginia hosted a series of Community Conversations with Norfolk Public Schools and more than 150 community stakeholders including parents, educators and business leaders to discuss the community’s role in improving high school graduation rates.
    Who We're Working With...

Business (Includes corporate and local small businesses as well as groups of business leaders)
• Albuquerque Business Education Compact (New Mexico PBS)
• Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (Vegas PBS)
• Business Leaders for Michigan (Detroit PTV)

Civic (Includes departments within local, city and state governments) 
• South Carolina State Dept. of Education (SCETV)
• Charlotte-Meckenburg Police Department (WTVI)
• City of Atlanta’s Parks Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PBA)

Non-Profit (Includes local community non-profit organizations and foundations)
• STRIVE Partnership (CET)
• Los Angeles City Libraries (PBS SoCal)
• ReelWorks Teen Filmmakers (WNET, New York, NY)

Higher Ed (Includes universities, community colleges and technical training programs)
• University of Arkansas (AETN)
• Miami-Dade College (Florida Collaborative)
• St. Louis Community College (Nine Network)

Schools (Includes public, private and alternative schools as well as school administrative offices)
• Norfolk Public Schools (WHRO)
• DC Public Schools (DC Collaborative)
• Nautillus Middle School (Miami, WLRN)

Faith (Includes churches, synagogues, and other sites of worship and consortia of religious leaders)
• Interfaith Leadership Council of Southeast Michigan (Detroit PTV)
• Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation (Alabama PTV)
• Beebe Memorial Cathedral (San Francisco KQED)


Free Resources. Direct support. Engaging students.

CLASSROOM: Public media has built a vast digital collection of free, trusted resources for use in school and after-school programs to engage students and connect education to their future aspirations.

RESULT: Community partners have reported that students' participation in American Graduate classroom programs have resulted in an increased commitment to school, graduation, and preparing for their future.

Local Examples...

  • SCETV partnered with Write/Right to Change on the ETV Civil Rights and Social Justice Youth Media Summit. The program taught high school students critical thinking, problem-solving and media creation skills through interactions with veterans of the civil rights movement.
  • WEDU/WUSF Tampa partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools to create a growing series of curriculum materials around for school readiness and STEM education. 
  • Vegas PBS provided free PBS Teacherline courses so teachers in the district can be up-to-date on instructional strategies to better serve the student’s needs. 
  • PBS SoCal partnered with Vita Link to introduce media career opportunities to more than 500 middle and high school students.
  • Alabama Public Television partnered with Leadership Montgomery on their "Steps to My Dream" project to provide college tours for middle school students in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • WUNC in Chapel Hill partnered with local schools to host a Youth Radio Club to mentor students in after-school programs.
  • WPBA in Atlanta worked closely with the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation’s Summer of Service Learning (SSL) initiative, teaching at-risk teens about being a responsible community citizens
  • In Tallahassee, WFSU hosted parent nights focused on engaging at-risk families in supporting educational goals of their children and a career lunch series.


Public media stations offer teachers, parents, and caregivers a vast digital collection of trusted student resources that are free and accessible online for schools and through after-school programs. Programs such as PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, Roadtrip Nation and StoryCorps U help students develop skills in new technologies, journalism, critical thinking and collaboration, and help them find the connection between education adn future career goals to improve attitudes toward school. A recent study found that students at a school in California using the Roadtrip Nation curriculum ended the year with a higher average GPA than students not participating in the program.

Why is this important to our country?

grad-reality-800-April2014In 1973, 72% of jobs required at most a high school diploma. By 2018, that number will shrink to 36%. A high school diploma provides each child with the building blocks to pursue a successful career and a better life, and it supports communities’ aspirations for a thriving economy. 

Had the nation already reached our 90% goal, the additional graduates from a single class would have earned an estimated $8.1 billion more in income, generated more than 65,700 jobs and increased the GDP by $10.9 billion.(1)


Learn more in our research center





Public Media’s Role in Education

Public media: community and education are central to our mission.


Research has shown that in addition to classroom rigor, children need consistent and caring adults as well as community support to be successful, starting in early childhood and continuing through college and careers. During the past two decades public media stations have helped at-risk and low-income communities build a strong foundation in early literacy through CPB-PBS Ready to Learn initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.  To expand upon this deep investment in early education, public media began building additional resources to help students transition to middle and high school, and prepare for success in college and career. 

This continuum of public media education services and engagement in high-need communities coalesced into a national effort called American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, with a long term goal to bolster the pace of improvement in high school graduation rates.

Public media reaches almost 99% of the U.S. population with free on-air and online content. Nearly 104 million Americans tune in to public television on a monthly basis, and approximately 65 million listen to public radio each week.


Public Media Is Deeply Rooted in Service to Every Community

wfyi-flickr-350American Graduate demonstrates public media's commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical issues. American Graduate content can be accessed for free by all Americans and, like so much of the content found across public television and radio — on air and online — directly benefits our civil society. As the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting, as well as the only entity that represents the breadth of the industry — public television, public radio, producers and local stations — CPB is pleased to share these highlights of work happening across the country. For every dollar of federal funding invested in public media, local stations are leveraging it six times over to benefit their communities and are building an engaged and informed citizenry.

 American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting working with local public media stations, public media producers, and distributors to share resources and community models for increased efficiencies and local success. For every dollar of federal funding invested in public media, local stations are leveraging it six times over to benefit their communities and buld an engaged and informed citizenry.

Along with the communities we serve, together, we’re making it happen!


About PBS -PBS is a private, nonprofit corporation, founded in 1969, whose members are America’s public TV stations -- noncommercial, educational licensees that operate 354 PBS member stations and serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Of the 162 licensees, 85 are community organizations, 52 are colleges/universities, 20 are state authorities and five are local educational or municipal authorities. 


About NPR- A thriving media organization at the forefront of digital innovation, NPR cretes and distributes award-winning news, information, and music programming to a network of 975 independent stations. Through them, NPR programming reaches 26 million listeners every week.


About PBS KIDS - In 2013, PBS KIDS series received eight Daytime Emmy Awards, as well as a combined 13 Parents' Choice Awards across television, mobile app and small screen categories. PBS KIDS also received six Kidscreen Awards, including being named Best Channel Website, and was also honored with a Webby Award and a Webby People's Voice Award for Best Youth Website.


1- Source: Alliance For Excellent Education -

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