About American Graduate Initiative

grad-cap-400Today’s global economy demands a more educated workforce. Communities are working together to improve 21st century learning and increase high school graduation rates to prepare more students for college and successful careers. Public media stations across the country are at the center of this community-based work providing quality content, forums, and classroom resources to build local capacity for long term success.

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is a long term public media commitment, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. Public media plays a significant role building individual activity, community capacity, and national awareness.

The dropout crisis demands attention now, and we are rising to the challenge of doing our part to address this problem. A new study conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education finds that the American Graduate initiative has succeeded in building community capacity to meet the national priority of ending America’s high school dropout crisis. LEARN MORE

Working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, and The Alliance for Excellent Education, and over 1000 local partners, the initiative puts faces on the numbers and increases understanding of the risks and solutions throughnational and local content, covering all facets of the issue for broadcast, web and  mobile platforms. In addition, American Graduate is engaging and empowering teachers, parents and students to help those most at risk of dropping out through community collaborations and classroom resources.

More than 75 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have joined forces with over 1000 partners and at-risk schools to shed light on the problem and share solutions. Through American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, local public television and radio stations are empowering individuals at the community level with knowledge by increasing national and local reporting, convening diverse local stakeholders, and providing access to free resources for teachers and parents. By working together and remaining vigilant, we are increasing the footprint of progress, reaching more children and communities and seeding the foundation for a prosperous economic future for our country.


ag-flyer-promoAmplify and spread solutions. Empowering individuals.

PROGRAMMING: Local public media stations have broadcast more than 1700 hours of inspiring stories behind the statistics to increase understanding and highlight solutions.

RESULT:  Communities are gaining knowledge and understanding of the issues. Communities are implementing solutions to help improve outcomes for our youth.

Local Examples…

  • In Cincinnati, CET produced radio and video spots telling the story of the dropout crisis in their community, what is working locally, and the challenges that remain.
  • In Phoenix, the Latino Public Radio Consortium, Radio Campesina used Mexican Independence Day events to educate the community about dropout prevention practices.
  • In Washington, DC, WAMU produced over 70 stories on different aspects of the dropout crisis and local solutions.
  • Nashville Public Television’s special “Translating the Dream” took an in-depth look at the unique challenges ELL and immigrant students face in achieving on-time graduation.
  • In New Mexico, KNME’s Public Square program focused on the dropout crisis from the student’s perspective.
  • KVCR in San Bernardino has aired more than 50 PSAs focused on the value of education, voiced by local mayors, school principals, parents and even students.
  • In Los Angeles, PBS SoCal highlights local community organizations working to help students graduate through “Community Champions” local on-air spots.


New Voices. Collaborative efforts. Connecting caring adults.

COMMUNITY EVENTS: Local public media stations have hosted over 600 screenings, forums, volunteer fairs, and media workshops. The goal has been to increase awareness and empower caring adults with access to resources, helping more at-risk families transform their lives.   

RESULT: Hundreds of thousands of citizens and stakeholder organizations are participating in new discussions and getting involved.

Local Examples… 

  • teacher-speaking2American Graduate Teacher Town Halls- Public media stations hosted twelve localAmerican Graduate Teacher Town Halls, allowing more than 2,000 teachers nationwide to participate in conversations through written surveys, text polling, and local broadcast events. Each town hall focused on how teachers and communities can impact the dropout crisis, and specifically addressed the roles of diversity and culture in supporting students.
  • American Graduate Day On September 22, 2012, public media stations across the country participated in an unprecedented multi-platform event to marshal a vast network of partners and caring adults around the issue of high school retention. This national seven-hour broadcast, produced by WNET, featured 20 national organizations working directly with students to help them succeed. Viewers and listeners responded by dedicating their time, talent, and other resources to address the dropout crisis.
  • American Graduate stations provide local forums for young people to examine the consequences of dropping out. Chicago’s WTTW and Free Spirit Media provide direct training to students in documentary media production and WHYY in Philadelphia offers media training through summer camps and local after school programs.


Shared vision. Catalyzing change.

PARTNERSHIPS: With over 1000 partners around the country, public media stations are convening diverse, independent groups to encourage organizations, businesses, and school districts to work together in new ways – or sometimes even for the first time.

RESULT: Community organizations achieve greater results and reach more students by aligning expertise and resources toward shared vision.

Local Examples… 

    • In St. Louis, Nine Network is bringing together a network of over 50 community partners to align key strategies and support for students’ success.
    • Colorado Public Television’s CPT12 station held an “Expert Summit” with partner organizations to hear perspectives and discuss possible solutions.
    • WFYI in Indianapolis hosted a public policy summit in partnership with the Indiana Partnership Center and other state organizations that moved the community to take collective action to reduce chronic absenteeism.
    • Mississippi Public Broadcasting is working with the state legislature and community organizations such as the NAACP and 100 Black Men to identify solutions that can change local outcomes.
    • WJCT in Florida partnered with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s One-by-One initiative to produce more than 100 community events and forums engaging over 1,000 citizen stakeholders that led to the development and ratification of a substantive community agreement to guide education reform in the district.
    • WHRO in Virginia hosted a series of Community Conversations with Norfolk Public Schools and more than 150 community stakeholders including parents, educators and business leaders to discuss the community’s role in improving high school graduation rates.

 Who We’re Working With…


Business (Includes corporate and local small businesses as well as groups of business leaders)
• Albuquerque Business Education Compact (New Mexico PBS)
• Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce (Vegas PBS)
• Business Leaders for Michigan (Detroit PTV)

Civic (Includes departments within local, city and state governments)
• South Carolina State Dept. of Education (SCETV)
• Charlotte-Meckenburg Police Department (WTVI)
• City of Atlanta’s Parks Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PBA)

Non-Profit (Includes local community non-profit organizations and foundations)
• STRIVE Partnership (CET)
• Los Angeles City Libraries (PBS SoCal)
• ReelWorks Teen Filmmakers (WNET, New York, NY)

Higher Ed (Includes universities, community colleges and technical training programs)
• University of Arkansas (AETN)
• Miami-Dade College (Florida Collaborative)
• St. Louis Community College (Nine Network)

Schools (Includes public, private and alternative schools as well as school administrative offices)
• Norfolk Public Schools (WHRO)
• DC Public Schools (DC Collaborative)
• Nautillus Middle School (Miami, WLRN)

Faith (Includes churches, synagogues, and other sites of worship and consortia of religious leaders)
• Interfaith Leadership Council of Southeast Michigan (Detroit PTV)
• Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation (Alabama PTV)
• Beebe Memorial Cathedral (San Francisco KQED)


Free Resources. Direct support. Engaging students.

CLASSROOM: Public media has built a vast digital collection of trusted student resources that are free and accessible online and through in-school and after-school programs.

RESULT: Communities are building critical “hands-on” skills to engage at-risk youth and help connect students’ education to a successful future.

Local Examples…

  • Detroit DPTV produced a series of teacher professional development videos focused on how to build student success skills for the workplace.
  • WEDU/WUSF Tampa has partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools to create a growing series of curriculum materials around for school readiness and STEM education.
  • Vegas PBS provided free PBS Teacherline courses so teachers in the district can be up-to-date on instructional strategies to better serve the student’s needs.
  • PBS SoCal partnered with Vita Link to introduce media career opportunities to more than 500 middle and high school students.
  • KQED has partnered with ConnectEd and I-SEEED to deliver a series of STEM-based trainings for educators on the effective use of media in the classroom to teach work and life skills to students.
  • WUNC in Chapel Hill is partnering with local schools to host a Youth Radio Club to mentor students in after school programs.
  • WPBA in Atlanta is working closely with the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation’s Summer of Service Learning (SSL) initiative, teaching at-risk teens about being a responsible community citizens
  • In Tallahassee, WFSU hosted parent nights focused on engaging at-risk families in supporting educational goals of their children and a career lunch series.



Over 115,000 students from 26 states have participated in the Roadtrip Nation Experience curriculum, which focuses on improving students’ behavior and attitudes towards school. A recent study found that students in California using the Roadtrip curriculum ended the academic year with a higher average GPA than students not participating in the program.



grad-reality-800In 1973, 72% of jobs required at most a high school diploma. By 2018, that number will shrink to 36%. A high school diploma provides each child with the building blocks to pursue a successful career and a better life, and it supports communities’ aspirations for a thriving economy. However, with nearly 1 in 5 students dropping out high school every year, we have been failing our children and ourselves. Had the nation already reached our 90% goal, the additional graduates from a single class would have earned an estimated $5.3 billion more in income, generated more than 37,000 jobs and increased the GDP by $6.6 billion.(1)


Learn more in our research center





Public media: community and education are central to our mission.

raising-readersResearch has shown that children need ongoing support in order to graduate, starting in early childhood. During the past two decades, over 100 public media stations helped at-risk and low income communities build a strong foundation in early literacy to narrow the achievement gap.  The CPB-PBS Ready to Learn Initiative is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. Success depends on a robust ecology of strategies and supports surrounding a student that in turn builds capacity in families, educators, and the community for long term success in reaching growing populations. To expand upon this deep investment in early education, public media began building additional resources in 2002 to help students transition to middle and high school, and through college and career milestones.

This continuum of public media education services and engagement in high-need communities coalesced into a national effort called American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen to bolster the positive pace of improvement in high school graduation rates and help our country reach a 90% graduation rate by 2020.

Nearly 120 million Americans tune into public television stations on a monthly basis, and approximately 65 million listen to public radio each week.



wfyi-flickr-350American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical issues. American Graduate content can be accessed for free by all Americans and, like so much of the content found across public television and radio — on air and online — directly benefits our civil society. As the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting, as well as the only entity that represents the breadth of the industry — public television, public radio, producers and local stations — CPB is pleased to share these highlights of work happening across the country. For every dollar of federal funding invested in public media, local stations are leveraging it six times over to benefit their communities and are building an engaged and informed citizenry.

American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting working with local public media stations, public media producers, and distributors to share resources and community models for increased efficiencies and local success.

Along with the communities we serve, together, we’re making it happen!


About PBS -PBS is a private, nonprofit corporation, founded in 1969, whose members are America’s public TV stations — noncommercial, educational licensees that operate 354 PBS member stations and serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Of the 162 licensees, 85 are community organizations, 52 are colleges/universities, 20 are state authorities and five are local educational or municipal authorities.


About NPR- A thriving media organization at the forefront of digital innovation, NPR cretes and distributes award-winning news, information, and music programming to a network of 975 independent stations. Through them, NPR programming reaches 26 million listeners every week.


About PBS KIDS - In 2013, PBS KIDS series received eight Daytime Emmy Awards, as well as a combined 13 Parents’ Choice Awards across television, mobile app and small screen categories. PBS KIDS also received six Kidscreen Awards, including being named Best Channel Website, and PBSKIDS.org was also honored with a Webby Award and a Webby People’s Voice Award for Best Youth Website.


1- (Source: Balfanz, R., Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Fox, J.H. (2013). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic – 2013 Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Data from the Alliance for Excellent Education analysis of data from Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.