As I listen to the stories of Paul, Shanaye, Kassandra, Denise and the other young people profiled in the “Don’t Call Them Dropouts” documentary, I am reminded of the contagious passion and aspiration that is present in our next generation of leaders. These students and others have faced obstacles, yet remain hungry to learn, eager to make a difference, and confident that if provided with the right tools and opportunities, they can achieve their dreams. They don’t count themselves out, so we shouldn’t either.
Through our journey with America’s Promise Alliance and the Grad Nation campaign to increase high school graduation rates, AT&T has worked to better understand the resources our young people need to stay in school and graduate. The “Don’t Call Them Dropouts” study offers invaluable insights as we work together toward a 90 percent national graduation rate by 2020.
One key to student success is hope. Hope that there is a pathway leading to a rewarding career. Technology can pave that pathway by offering affordable access to high quality learning opportunities for learners of all ages, in all zip codes. Learning does not stop at the school walls. It’s a lifelong process. Through AT&T Aspire, our company’s $350 million commitment to education, we are investing in new learning environments and educational delivery systems that will help students complete high school and get them ready to take on 21st century jobs.
Recently, AT&T teamed up with Udacity to announce an exciting new way to provide efficient, affordable, and accessible training for high demand jobs in the tech industry. The NanoDegree will launch this fall in the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) format with courses in entry-level software skills. MOOC leader Udacity will manage the program, and AT&T will provide direction on course content.
Students will be certified for the skills they learn through this new educational pathway – skills valuable to foundational software science jobs throughout the tech industry. Graduates will be fully recognized for jobs at our company, and many could have an opportunity for scholarships and paid internships along the way. It’s a new kind of learning option that can offer hope to students or young workers wanting to seek specific skills that are needed in today’s workplace.
We must do whatever we can to invest in young people today – at home, in the classroom, at work – to prepare them for success tomorrow. They need caring adults, safe environments and healthy bodies. They also need access to as many quality learning options as possible as they maneuver the many challenges in their world. NanoDegrees are just one example of how we can utilize technology to capture the potential demonstrated by the students featured in “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” and help our next generation of leaders realize career success. We need them to succeed. And they deserve nothing less.