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DeKalb fights youth dropout with the Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program

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As we celebrate the accomplishments of local, state and national high school graduates of the Class of 2014, there is another group of students educators are still desperately trying to reach. In a 2013 report on national graduation statistics, graduation rates are noted at the highest they have been in nearly 40 years, but the dropout numbers indicate that there is still a lot of work to be done.

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond announced Monday the district’s latest effort to reach more youth at risk of dropping out of high school through a successful innovative program. The district has named five high school selected to particpate in the Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates (JGG) program. The five DeKalb schools are: Cross Keys High School, Clarkston High School, Lithonia High School, Ronald E. McNair High School, and Towers High School.

The Jobs for Georgia's Graduates program is currently in 22 schools across Georgia. Last year, JGG successes included a 96-percent graduation rate and 87-percent successful outcomes, meaning students went on to post-secondary education, employment, or some combination of the two.

Superintendent Thurmond, a former Georgia Commissioner of Labor for three terms, worked closely with the Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program during his time as Labor Commissioner. Thurmond said, “I’ve seen the impact of JGG serving disadvantaged students to help them finish high school and move on to postsecondary education and a career. I want to bring the JGG program to our schools in DeKalb County to share that opportunity for success with our high school students that need it the most.”

The Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program is gaining momentuem with the help of a similar, successful program called Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) .

AT&T has been a longtime supporter of the nonprofit JAG program, and its goal of helping raise the high school graduation rates. This time AT&T is donating one million dollars to JAG, and the Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program is the beneficiary of that gift.

JAG programs help underserved students overcome barriers to graduation through mentoring, tutoring, academic support and links to social services among other interventions. With a high school diploma or General Educational Diploma, students are guided into post-secondary education, entry-level careers or the military.

As for AT&T, it has maintained its longtime support of JAG program based on the measurable impact the program has had on students on a whole. Beth Shiroishi, President of AT&T Georgia and former President of the AT&T Foundation says, “We are encouraged by the recent news that for the first time we are on a path to reach a 90 percent national graduation rate by 2020, but we also know there is more work to be done.”

Since 2008, AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have provided approximately $4 million in funding to JAG and its local affiliates. This support is part of AT&T Aspire, AT&T's $350 million commitment to education.

Since its inception in 1980, JAG has served nearly 1 million at-risk kids, and is currently serving over 45,000 students in 31 states. In 2012, JAG’s network of affiliates reported a 93-percent high school graduation rate, compared to the national graduation rate of 78.2 percent.

The DeKalb County School District is the third largest district in the state serving nearly 100,000 students.

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