Vox: One in six high schoolers don’t graduate on time. This is how one organization hopes to raise that stat

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One in six high schoolers don’t graduate on time. This is how one organization hopes to raise that stat
A look at the impact of AT&T’s Aspire program on one student’s life.
By Vox Creative; Published: Nov. 29, 2018

In 2016, 16-year-old Eva Mercado’s life was changed by a lollipop. Well, it was changed by becoming a part of the AT&T Aspire-supported organization, Urban Alliance. But it was a lollipop that led her there. She was in the cafeteria at Justice High School in Northern Virginia during her sophomore year when she saw a table set up giving out candy. “Why not?” she thought, and walked over.

Lollipop in hand, Urban Alliance program manager Ms. Ki told Mercado about the organization. Urban Alliance, based in the DC metro area, describes itself as preparing underserved high school students “for future economic self-sufficiency through an intensive, year-long experience combining paid, professional internships, job skills training, one-on-one mentoring, and ongoing post-program support.” Mercado, who had been struggling to balance her academics and a night job at a newspaper warehouse, applied and was selected to participate. Two years later, she is now attending Wheaton College in Massachusetts where she is preparing for a career in public service.

Although one in six high schoolers in America don’t graduate on time, the rate has actually risen by 10 percentage points in the last 10 years. In that time, the AT&T Aspire program has given $450 million to organizations dedicated to improving graduation rates, innovating in education, and preparing students for careers of the future. In an economic landscape where millions of jobs could go unfilled in the coming years due to a lack of qualified candidates and average incomes are drastically lower for students who don’t graduate from high school or college, raising the on-time graduation rate to at least 90 percent is a vital goal. Thanks to organizations like those supported by AT&T Aspire, it may be within reach.