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The Graduation Crisis: Minnesota’s Challenge

In 2014, approximately 53,524 students in Minnesota graduated from public high schools. While these students culminated their educational journey with the satisfaction and pride of receiving a high school diploma, many students watched empty-handed as their peers walked the stage. In fact, thousands of students were left without robes and mortarboards; 5,164 young people dropped out or had an “unknown” status at the time of graduation.

Minnesota Public High School Student Graduation Rates

Who are these students? By and large they are students of color, low-income students, and youth with special needs or disabilities. 2014 numbers showed that nearly half of Black, Latino, Native American, and low-income students did not graduate. These are youth who are struggling – those who have multiple stressors and challenges in their lives. These are young people that need support so that they can reach their potential.  In order to reach the goal of 90% graduation – for ALL student groups – by 2020, a goal set by the Office of the Governor, the Minnesota Department of Education, and Minnesota Alliance With Youth, we need to reach significant numbers of struggling youth each year. Over the next five years, an additional 30,000 youth need to graduate if we are to reach our 90% goal. 30,000 young people: a little less than the number of seats at Target Field – seats filled each and every home game by passionate and caring Minnesotans who want to see a bright future for our state. It’s a goal that is achievable – and we are gaining momentum! For the first time in our state’s history, the graduating class of 2014 surpassed 80%.

We know what it takes to help youth succeed in school and graduate. The research is clear. Youth that have comprehensive support that starts in early childhood and continues on into middle and high school see higher graduation rates. Wraparound support in all areas known as the “Five Promises” (Caring Adults, Safe Places, Effective Education, a Healthy Start, and Opportunities to Help Others) needs to be present for youth from cradle to career. To fully experience the power of the Promises, young people must experience these critical supports throughout their lives – in their families, at schools, and in their communities.

Engaging youth as active members of their communities and helping ALL youth graduate from high school will require a comprehensive, community- and systems-wide approach – our strategy and mission at Minnesota Alliance With Youth. In this issue of the Promise Press, learn more about the strides being made by our three key initiatives – GradMinnesota, AmeriCorps Promise Fellows, and the Minnesota Youth Council – and join the movement!

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