Bryan Gonterman, AT&T Oklahoma president presents a $100,000 AT&T Aspire grant to Tulsa School Superintendent Keith Ballard and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor to support a program aimed at increasing graduation rates for at-risk students at five Tulsa high schools.
The presentation is made during a school assembly of Tulsa Hale High School seniors and juniors, at 6960 E. 21st Street.
By finding new ways to help students learn and encourage them to be in the classroom, TPS is opening doors for further education and careers they might never have thought possible, Ballard said.
Improving the graduation rates in Tulsa high schools is a priority issue for Taylor.
“In some of our schools, half of the students who start in the ninth grade never make it to graduation and many drop out in that first year,” Taylor said. “It is imperative that we reach out to these students early and do everything we can to make sure they stay in school. The effect on their lives, our city and our economy is too great for this problem to be ignored. We need to address this problem now and with a major initiative such as this one.”
The grant will go to help fund Project REACH — Raising Expectations & Achievement to Challenging Heights — a program targeting an estimated 500 ninth-grade students at Hale, Rogers, McClain, Webster and Central high schools in Tulsa. The project will offer a specialized curriculum in math and reading to students who are performing at least two grade levels below normal. Other activities will include career development, job shadowing and a special summer camping experience for some students.
Nilda Reyes, director of diversity and equity for Tulsa Public Schools, will oversee the day-to-day operation of Project REACH. A former teacher and principal, Reyes said her goal is to provide resources and raise the level of learning for every student.
“Developing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce is a top priority for the Tulsa Metro Chamber and the businesses we represent,” said Mike Neal, president & CEO, Tulsa Metro Chamber. “We’re hopeful that this initiative by our school system can slow the dropout rate and result in more trained workers in the Tulsa area.”
“High school dropout rates are a serious issue affecting more than 1 million students in this country each year,” AT&T’s Gonterman said. “We’re committed to supporting the great work our educators are already doing in our local communities to help kids succeed by preparing them for a global economy. We are lending a hand to build and expand these programs, and we are gratified by the response to the program and look forward to working with these groups to build a brighter future for our youth.”
The grant is part of AT&T’s signature initiative, AT&T Aspire, which was announced earlier this year and helps address high school success and workforce readiness. AT&T has committed $100 million in philanthropy through 2,011 to schools and nonprofit organizations that are focused on high school retention and better preparing students for college and the workforce.
Under the Aspire program, more than 170 schools and nonprofit organizations will receive almost $12 million in competitive grants from the AT&T Foundation that are designed to support high school retention programs at national and local levels for at-risk students.
Four Oklahoma schools or organizations received a total of more than $286,000 in Aspire grants. In addition to Tulsa Public Schools, the other schools are Blackwell Public Schools, Thunderbird Challenge Inc. in Pryor, and Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville.