Press Release

America’s Promise Alliance Brings Regional Best Practice Forum To Houston

Nation’s Largest Alliance to Help Children Highlights Houston’s and Other Cities’ Efforts to Reduce High School Dropout Rates and Help Children Become Successful Adults

HOUSTON (June 14, 2007) – With research showing that when youth are provided with supportive home, school and community environments, their chances of success dramatically increase, the America’s Promise Alliance (the Alliance) is bringing its Regional Best Practice Forum to Houston on June 14th and 15th.  At the forum, communities from across the country will share best practices, showing community leaders how to implement successful strategies, foster greater collaboration within communities and encourage participants to network with other leaders from all sectors who are focused on helping young people thrive.  Houston was chosen as the host of this important two-day forum because of its successful efforts to keep high school students in school and help train them for a successful future in the workforce.

“As a nation, we have not adequately prepared our young people with the skills and resources they need to become successful adults,” said Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO of the America’s Promise Alliance. “These forums allow a central place for communities across the country to come together to share successes and educate and encourage each other to implement programs that truly help our youngest citizens lead more productive, happier and healthier lives. With its youth advisory council and the Expectation: Graduation program, Houston is a shining example of a community that has made great progress in preparing their youth for success later in life.”

Founded by General Colin Powell, USA (Ret) in 1997, the America’s Promise Alliance has built a strong partnership network to deliver the Five Promises - caring adults; safe places; a healthy start and development; an effective education; and opportunities to help others – to our nation’s youth.   The key to the Alliance’s success has been the sharing of proven strategies to improve children’s lives among partners and between communities. 

A major focus of the two-day forum in Houston will be on efforts to reduce high school dropout rates.  Research shows that improving high school completion rates yields dividends in the form of higher lifetime incomes for those who graduate, higher tax contributions, fewer incarcerations and reduced dependence on public assistance. Yet, our nation’s dropout problem is growing.  Every 29 seconds, another student gives up on school – with more than one million American high school students dropping out every year.  During the forum, communities will work to understand their local dropout crisis, develop strategies for dropout prevention and gather the resources needed for a comprehensive and sustained campaign to improve graduation rates and outcomes for all students, including hosting their own state/local dropout summit.

In January, the Alliance honored the City of Houston and Harris County as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People – communities large and small, rural and urban, across America dedicated to building strong communities that nurture young people.  Houston Mayor Bill White and the City of Houston have made considerable progress in improving the city’s education system. Of those 9th graders who entered Harris County high schools in 2001, 80.4 percent graduated in 2005.

The City of Houston has also pioneered several innovative programs to prepare the city’s youth for greater success in life. Among these programs is Houston’s Kids, a program conceived by the Alliance as part of its nationwide initiative Katrina’s Kids, which links and integrates the efforts of several local business and community organizations to provide comprehensive support to the more than 20,000 young people enrolled in Houston schools who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some of the organizations involved are the Joint City/County Commission on Children, United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast, the YMCA of Greater Houston, Communities in Schools and the Alief Independent School District. The program offers such services as after-school educational and recreational activities, service learning opportunities, internships and part-time jobs and connections to an array of services for children and their families, including mentoring and vision and dental health services. The program has already helped more than 1,000 students and proved to be so successful that it was extended year-round with more organizations joining the effort.

Another program, Expectation: Graduation, was developed by Mayor White and local community groups to ensure that all students have the skills they need to go on to college, secondary training or good jobs. As part of the program, Mayor White and thousands of volunteers walk door-to-door each fall to convince students who have not yet returned to school to come back. The Mayor also sends a letter to every ninth-grader in Houston Independent School District asking them to commit to him in writing to stay in school.

Mayor White also created a Mayor’s Youth Council to provide him with a youth perspective. Currently, the Youth Council consists of 27 students from high schools around the city. The Youth Council holds regular town hall meetings to garner input on matters pending before the “actual” city council, which have direct impact on children and youth.

Mayor White will join the Alliance at the forum to highlight the urgent need to improve the nation’s dropout rate.

“The city of Houston is honored to work with America’s Promise,” said Mayor Bill White “Houston is a great city of opportunity and this is an opportunity to prepare our children for jobs with a future and inspire other communities to do the same.”

Other sessions at the forum will grant participants the opportunity to learn more about moving communities to action, furthering national action strategies to support young people’s success and methods for engaging parents and establishing policy supports. Participants will also have the opportunity to hear from Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) which are free, open-enrollment college preparatory schools in 16 states and Washington, DC for disadvantaged youth that began in Houston in 1994.  On the second day, several community leaders from around the nation will share their own successful programs including leaders from the following 100 Best Communities for Young People: Broomfield, CO, Brentwood, CA, Hollywood, FL, Oklahoma City, OK, St. Petersburg, FL, Findlay, OH, Los Alamos, NM, Tigard, OR, Lower Yakima Valley, WA, the Coalition for Chandler Youth, AZ and St. Johns Tri School Community in Texas.

For more information on the high school dropout problem, please visit: http://www.silentepidemic.org

###

About the America’s Promise Alliance
America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s leader in forging a strong and effective partnership alliance comprised of corporations, nonprofit organizations, foundations, policymakers, advocacy and faith groups committed to ensuring that children receive the fundamental resources - the Five Promises – they need to lead successful, healthy and productive lives and build a stronger society. Building on the legacy of our founder General Colin Powell, the Alliance believes the success of our children is grounded in experiencing the Five Promises - caring adults; safe place; a healthy start; an effective education; and opportunities to help others - at home, in school and in the community.

1 - Bridgeland, John, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Morison. The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: March, 2006.