A Case for Action

Through education, at-risk youth can be transformed into high school graduates armed with academic and professional capabilities and better social and civic skills. Education is the catalyst for bottom-up change and can become the epicenter in successful communities. The high school diploma serves as the most important impetus for driving personal and communal change. Educate our youth, and our communities will flourish. In fact, it can be argued that the successful graduation of even a single student de-risks a family unit and can amplify their impact by encouraging others to become contributing members of society. The power of example demonstrated by just a one individual graduating high school can begin to galvanize a single building or street. At scale, it can help build workforces with higher productivity, leading to lower poverty and reduced crime rates.

The challenge of our time is that while the U.S. Department of Education places total high school graduation rates at ~80 percent, an increase over years past, countless communities are still moving in a reverse trajectory. Michael Brown, CEO and co-founder of City Year, a nonprofit dedicated to helping at-risk students succeed, reports that one-third of students from low-income families don't graduate high school. This foreshadows significant risk and dislocation for millions of young adults.

Where to Start?

Experts affirm that a local-level change agenda is about reestablishing the character of an area. Charles C. Haynes writes, "Schools are typically the conscience of a neighborhood." It starts with a school's system-wide educational reform initiative that includes creating more diverse academic alternatives for students, such as blended learning and flipped classrooms, particularly for the large number of students who fall outside traditional learning habits. Education ultimately improves and strengthens a community, including bolstering the economic infrastructure and wage increases. It empowers people to take better control of their own destinies. The byproduct is a greater social consciousness with positive consequences and a more prospering community.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.