[testimonial author=”President Barack Obama”]“If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible — from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career.” He has also stated that “Higher education is not a luxury. Earning a post-secondary degree or credential is a prerequisite for 21st century jobs, and one that everyone should be able to afford.”[/testimonial]
We at the Urban League of Greater Atlanta wholeheartedly agree. We believe that education is the foundation to having the tools necessary to move up the economic ladder and achieve economic self-reliance and build wealth. One of our historical missions is to give everyone an equal shot at a high-quality education and access to job and business ownership opportunities that meet their skills and afford them the opportunity to earn a living at a middle class or higher level. We work toward this goal through numerous programs including Project Ready, our college preparedness program for high school students that is featured in this newsletter.
I am extremely proud of our Project Ready students, many of whom will be the first in their families to receive a college degree or post-secondary credential. And they will be committed to uplifting their communities, at least in part because of their introduction through Project Ready to the importance of community service. I personally know many of the students in the program. It is rewarding to me to see the transformation that develops as they connect with a career pathway that aligns with their purpose and passion, embrace the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education, and experience the life-changing importance of giving back. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing the manifestation of their confidence and excitement for their futures.
Fortunately, the Urban League has many supporters and partners who recognize the valuable ripple effect on our communities when more young people have doors of educational and career opportunity open to them. They see the interconnectedness between our communities here in Atlanta to the nation and the world for building a strong future for our country.
Every young person counts as we look to ensure a viable employment base for 21st century jobs, and leadership necessary for the global economy in which we all live.
But we must do more, because the need is so great. Far too many of our youth are not achieving the critical first step of graduating from high school in Georgia.
[pullquote align=”right”]Atlanta Public High School graduation rate has risen to 59.1% in 2014, up from 50.9% in 2012.[/pullquote] Georgia Department of Education data show that the Atlanta Public High School graduation rate has risen to 59.1% in 2014, up from 58.6% in 2013 and 50.9% in 2012. Yet on the low end, Douglas High School had only a 42.5% graduation rate. More than half of our APS students will be at a distinct and possibly dire disadvantage in the job market and face the probability of living a life of poverty.
A 2011 report indicated roughly 60,000 students in Georgia not graduating from high school, with a calculation that if they had graduated, the annual state tax would have increased by $26 billion. Clearly an investment in strategies and resources that dramatically improve our graduation rates will have a significant economic impact on our region will make our city, region and state more competitive .
So, you see, we view an educated workforce as not only a moral but a practical imperative for every one of us, whether or not we have children or feel safely advantaged in our own lives. I invite you to join with us! Be a volunteer, a donor or a participant, to ensure equal opportunity for all — driven by educational equity.
Working to empower our community – the Urban League of Greater Atlanta!
Nancy Flake Johnson