This is the time of year when all over America, family and friends are celebrating the accomplishments of students who have taken a significant step in preparing for their future – earning a high school diploma. As much as we commend them for their hard work, we also need to realize that at every graduation ceremony taking place at thousands of high schools from coast-to-coast, each of the graduating classes should be larger.
Absent from the numbers of those celebrating, are the nearly one in five U.S. high school students who failed to graduate. They are the approximately 800,000 students who did not receive a diploma this year because extraordinarily difficult life circumstances interrupted their educational path.
They are not “dropouts”. They are “non-graduates” who have not achieved academically, because they were probably convinced that they could not. They are young Americans who lacked supportive connections with parents, other family members, peers, or educators. They are very much the face of urban America who as a result of their socio-economic disparity, it was assumed that they would not finish school, would not find a decent job, and would never go to college.
We know these young people – we know their faces. And now we have learned from the America’s Promise Alliance report – Don’t Call Them Dropouts – We grew up with them in Lansing, Michigan and Hamilton, Ohio. Most of all, we know them to be highly resilient in their day-to-day lives, and capable of bouncing back from negative situations.
As we have learned from the America’s Promise Alliance report – Don’t Call Them Dropouts – “The programs that are re-engaging young people who have interrupted their education create supportive structures, help connect young people to new opportunities, and foster civic engagement.”
Over the next few weeks, more than 220 of these “non-graduates” will become “graduates”, when they receive their high school diplomas at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies located around the country. They will join the nearly 500 other graduates who completed their education in this program over the past two years.
In the past, these new graduates saw doors close in front of them. Yet, when acts of caring and listening directed towards them helped to open a new door to opportunity – their faces lit up with a realization of accomplishment upon being presented their diplomas.
So, let’s listen, care, and open more doors.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, NBA Legend…2-Time Hall of Famer…Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises and the Magic Johnson Foundation – teamed with EdisonLearning in 2011 to establish Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies for high school-age students who have already left school, or who are at risk of leaving, and want to earn a standard high school diploma.
Thom Jackson is President and CEO of EdisonLearning, a leading international educational services provider.