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Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than 1.2 million children dropping out of school each year, America faces an education crisis. The cost? More than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.1 These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private, and nonprofit sectors work together.
Successful completion of high school is crucial for young people to acquire employment suitable for sustaining a family and their health. In Juneau, 5% of district students leave between 7th and 12th grade without a transcript request. Unfortunately, there is a clear gap between the district rate and the Alaska Native dropout rate. Each year, the Alaska Native dropout rate is approximately twice that of the entire district.
United Way of Southeast Alaska understands that, in order to decrease dropout rates in Southeast Alaska, our focus can not be on high school students alone. To address the problem of high school dropouts, United Way of Southeast Alaska encourages early learning by supporting the Born Learning initiative and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Recently, United Way of Southeast Alaska launched a Literacy by Third Grade campaign to help ensure children are reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade.
Children who have trouble reading at grade level often struggle in school and drop out as a result. Successful readers are more likely to graduate on time and be better prepared to enter the workforce. By placing emphasis on reading success, United Way of Southeast Alaska expects to see graduation rates increase, drop out rates to decrease, and substance abuse rates in young people to decrease. Utilizing our core strengths — committed community partners and public engagement capacity — we can achieve our goal.
High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting early childhood education behind schedule. United Way of Southeast Alaska's model focuses on supportive communities, effective schools and strong families — strategies and approaches rooted in research. Tackling the education challenge requires reframing education on a birth to 21 continuum.
How You Can Help
To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. Volunteer to help.
1. Figure according to Communities in Schools, one of America’s leading drop-out prevention partnerships.