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Reggie Bush, celebrities, join effort to improve H.S. graduation rates

Reggie Bush attends the 3rd Annual NFL Honors at Radio City Music Hall on February 1, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

On Monday, Reggie Bush partnered with Taco Bell Foundation for Teens in a program that will encourage one million teens to graduate high school each year. Aside from the Detroit Lions running back, the foundation's ambassadors include the band Young the Giant and YouTube stars Megan Nicole and Tyler Oakley.

The celebrities will raise awareness for the high school dropout crisis facing America's youth, and inspire teens to pursue educational and personal success, according to an April 21 statement on the foundation's website. In the coming months, Bush, Young the Giant, Nicole, and Oakley will make surprise visits, have lunch with students, and join summer camps, among other activities.

Earlier this month, singer Kelly Rowland also pledged her support for the foundation's efforts.

Graduation Rates

"The reality is that … [teens] are struggling to stay in school; they are struggling to find the inspiration, tools and resources to help them stay on track; and they are struggling to graduate from high school so that they can unlock opportunities they never dreamed possible," says Reggie Bush, who graduated from Helix High School in San Diego in 2003.

The Lions running back, with nearly 2.9 million followers on Twitter, should add needed influence in Taco Bell's effort to improve student success. Despite an annual budget of over $1.2 billion, Detroit has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the country, at 65 percent in 2013. In the Motor City, four-year graduation rates stand at 76 percent.

Nationally, there are sobering stats on education. Nearly one million teens drop out of high school every year. One in five American students do not graduate on time, according to the Department of Education.

And the dropout rate for Hispanic and African American teens is between 5 and 6 percent on any given year. Public high schools also tend to do poorly when it comes to test scores and graduation rates.

Taco Bell's new ambassadors want to improve those statistics.

"High school years can be challenging" says Sameer Gadhia, lead vocals for Young the Giant. "We're really excited to be involved with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens so we can have an opportunity to encourage teens to pursue their passion and make the most of their education."

Annual Fundraiser

In May, customers of the restaurant chain can donate cash at checkout as part of an annual fundraiser. Donors will have a personalized card posted on the restaurant wall as recognition of their support.

On Monday, Tyler Oakley encouraged his Twitter followers to pledge their support: "Have you made the @TacoBell4Teens pledge to graduate? It literally takes less than a minute: … #Grad4Más"

"I was shocked to learn that one in four high school students do not graduate on time. That is nearly [one] million teens that drop out of school every year, and life can be very challenging without a high school diploma,” says singer-songwriter Megan Nicole. “I am looking forward to partnering with the Taco Bell Foundation as they continue to equip and encourage teens to work hard, give back, and live out their lives …"

The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens was founded in 1992 with a mission to empower teens to pursue educational and career success. Since it's founding, the foundation has invested $45 million in non-profit initiatives aimed at America's youth. It also wants to promote health habits, and to encourage teens to give back in their communities.

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