On September 27th, Medal-winning Olympians and Paralympians gathered at Maynard Jackson High School to address students in the cluster about overcoming adversity and achieving goals as part of Graduation Generation.
Graduation Generation is a collaborative initiative designed to improve student academic performance and increase students’ chances for success in high school and beyond. A partnership between Emory University’s Center for Community Partnerships, Atlanta Public Schools, and Communities In Schools, Graduation Generation collaborates with other partners, especially the Zeist Foundation, a long-time supporter of communities and schools in East Atlanta.
“Our aim is to help families, communities, and schools obtain the kind of support needed to ensure successful educational outcomes for the children and youth in the Maynard Jackson High School Cluster,” says Ozzie Harris II, Senior Vice Provost for Community and Diversity at Emory University.
About 500 students heard from athletes and philanthropist and businessman Rick Rieder, an Emory alumnus and Chief Investment Officer of Fundamental Fixed Income for BlackRock, Inc., whose gifts of more than $1.5 million since 2010 established Graduation Generation.
The athletes and community leaders shared inspiring stories of success and obstacles overcome.
- Jeremy Campbell, Paralympian in track and field who took home multiple gold medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and broke the world record in the American Discus F44 four times at the 2012 London Games.
- Cullen Jones, Olympic swimmer who won a gold and two silver medals at 2012 Olympic Games in London.
- Christian Laettner, former Duke University and NBA basketball star who won a gold medal with the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, also known as “The Dream Team.”
- Kari Miller, Paralympian in sitting volleyball who won silver medals in 2012 and 2008. She’s also a military veteran, having served in Bosnia and Korea in the late 1990s.
- Tim Morehouse, an American fencer who won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. fencing team in 2008. Morehouse has spoken to more than 30,000 students about achieving their dreams.
- Charlie Huebner, chief of the U.S. Paralympics of United States Olympic Committee since July 2006.
Partners in Graduation Generation envision the program as a best-practices solution for decreasing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates that can be duplicated in school systems throughout the country.
During phase I of the program at Sammye E. Coan Middle School, student performance improved, parent involvement doubled, absenteeism decreased, and disciplinary referrals dropped. Performance on standardized tests improved in sixth grade math, sixth and seventh grade social studies, seventh and eighth grade science, and eighth grade language arts.
The program uses a “cradle-to-career” strategy to maximize opportunities for student learning and personal development beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school graduation.
A proposed phase II will expand the model from one school serving 350 students to 10 schools serving 3,500 students in the Maynard Jackson High School cluster.
“In the second phase of Graduation Generation, we want to supplement the education program with social care, health care, camps, and more, to really get these kids to feel like there are people who really want them to succeed and build the environment around them,” says Rick Rieder.