Education, Business and Community Leaders in Philadelphia Gather for GradNation Community Summit
City leaders rally as an alliance in support of Project U-Turn’s new goals and strategies to increase the graduation rate and prepare young people for future opportunities
PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 13, 2017) – Today, city officials, leaders and supporters came together to rally for Project U-Turn, an alliance that unifies partners to increase the graduation rate and prepare young people for new opportunities. Project U-Turn announced its new goals focused on increasing re-engagement, reducing the number of young people who disconnect from high school and increasing the percent of connections to a post-secondary education, training program and/or employment.
The program began with welcoming remarks from Mayor James Kenney. Otis D. Hackney, Chief Education Officer, introduced a monologue titled “Not Ready” by Rashaan Brooks from Philadelphia Young Playwrights, and discussed how its powerful message coincides with the new strategies of Project U-Turn. The monologue is Brooks’ response to young black men in his neighborhood who feel they are not prepared for post-secondary education.
The performance of the monologue was followed by Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, who revealed Project U-Turn’s two new goals. By 2020, Project U-Turn aims to have increased the number of young people who re-engage to 70 percent and ensure that at least 50 percent of those who re-engaged earn their high school degree or equivalency through high quality programs. It’s second goal is to reduce the number of students who have disconnected from high school to 20 percent.
“Since Project U-Turn was created in 2006, the graduation rate has increased by 25 percent,” said Hite. “We must strongly recommit to boosting the high school graduation rate and The School District of Philadelphia is committed to its Anchor Goal 1 of ensuring that 100 percent of students are college and career ready.”
In response to these new goals, a panel discussion took place and allowed audience members to engage with the panel to ask questions. The panel featured:
- Moderator: Ruth Curran Neild, Director of Philadelphia Education Research Consortium of Research for Action
- Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth and Project U-Turn steering committee member
- Marcus Delgado, Chief Executive Officer, One Bright Ray Community High School and Project U-Turn action team member
- Christina Grant, Assistant Superintendent of the Opportunity Network and Project U-Turn steering committee member
- Mitch Little, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity
- Cheryl Logan, Chief of Academic Support, School District of Philadelphia and Project U-Turn steering committee member
Following the panel, Dr. Donald Generals, President of the Community College of Philadelphia, discussed the new post-secondary education component of Project U-Turn. The goal is to increase the percent of young people who connect to a post-secondary education, training program and/or employment. Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network (the managing partner of Project U-Turn), closed the event informing attendees how they can stay informed and engaged.
The event follows the 10th anniversary of Project U-Turn, when the alliance underwent a strategic planning process to refresh its goals and recommit to Philadelphia’s young people. Since Project U-Turn’s inception in 2006 many partners have invested resources to create longstanding change and improve secondary education outcomes for young Philadelphians. Since 2006, the four-year graduation rate rose from 52 percent to 66 percent.
“Project U-Turn’s efforts have led to real impact and we recognize the alliance has helped make great improvements,” said Fulmore-Townsend. “Project U-Turn’s new goals and strategies can help ensure that partners’ efforts are maximized to increase re-engagement, reduce disconnection and increase post-secondary connections. We recognize that there is much more work to be done, but we will continue to do this work because every young person deserves the chance to achieve their dreams.”
To learn more about Project U-Turn’s renewed commitment, or visit www.projectuturn.net.