Understanding How the Dropout Crisis “Ticks”

I was the type of kid that loved taking my toys apart. If it beeped, lit up, or made a noise, I wanted to know how. After leaving a path of once-roaring dinosaurs, previously-squawking squad cars and un-motorized trains in my wake, my parents realized that I was more suited to Lego’s K’nex, and other toys that were friendlier to my style of play.

 Even though I am now rapidly approaching fully fledged adulthood, not much has changed. I still love taking things apart to see how they “tick,” but I have been trying to turn that same enthusiasm from play into work. At America’s Promise Alliance, I’ve found a perfect opportunity to channel that enthusiasm into something truly valuable.

As a senior at American University, I am working towards degrees in Political Science and Education, and will become a certified Secondary School (official term for middle and high school) Social Studies teacher this spring. Teaching in the classroom has been an amazing experience and very rewarding, but I understand that there is a lot at play outside of it that influences students and teachers alike. 

Outside of my teacher training, I’ve been trying to gain a greater understanding about how education in this country “ticks.” In school, I’ve done research projects and written reports on the influences on and power of education, and in my internships, I’ve tried to get a big-picture view of the stakeholders in education. At America’s Promise, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to continue down this path.

One of the biggest aspects of ending the dropout crisis is linking communities in need of help to improve their graduation rates with businesses and organizations that can provide that support. When I was brought on as an intern, America’s Promise was in the middle of this process. After talking with some people in the office, I found myself playing a vital role in moving this project along. 

To determine what businesses and organizations to partner with what communities, we needed to know the ins and outs of each business and organization affiliated with America’s Promise and the hard facts and numbers of what they could bring to the table in ending the dropout crisis. This was a perfect match for me; I had an opportunity to check out how hundreds of different groups were working to address the dropout problem, and I would help advance our mission while doing so.

For the past three months, I have vetted over 200 nonprofits, businesses, and coalitions to see exactly what they can do to help communities and schools create an environment that fosters success. From The Ad Council to Zero to Three and everything in between, I’ve learned something new when researching each one. Whether it’s a new school of thought, an innovative program or a study that debunks misconceptions, each has been an important piece of the education and dropout crisis puzzle. It hasn’t been an easy task finding and analyzing the information, assessing its impact, and categorizing it in a quantifiable way, but it has been immensely rewarding. 

I can honestly say that I know much more now about the network of stakeholders in the education field than I did at the start of September, and far from being busywork, my work will serve as a key foundation piece in linking schools and communities to businesses and organizations. I’m proud of the work I’ve had an opportunity to do with America’s Promise, and for the kid that would rather take his toys apart than play with them, my main project here was the perfect fit.