This invitation goes – in particular – to the area’s school board members.
It also applies to anyone in the Greater Wyoming Valley with a passion for curing our community’s most stubborn social ills, from food insecurity to crime.
Your presence is requested at next week’s Wyoming Valley GradNation Community Summit – a first-of-its-kind event in the region that is intended to result in a blueprint for reducing high school dropout rates in area districts and getting students ready to succeed in life.
Attendees will hear from Dr. Leonard Sax, a Philadelphia-area family physician and author of books such as “The Collapse of Parenting.” They also will be encouraged to participate in breakout sessions, each built around a theme – such as “early childhood education” and “career readiness” – and packed with state and local panelists who are authorities on the topics.
Organizers at the United Way of Wyoming Valley teamed with America’s Promise Alliance, the youth-focused foundation created by Gen. Colin Powell, to stage this summit. They aim to draw 325 people – each a potential partner in the effort to support area students both in and out of school.
Why focus on education?
Simply put, if more of our students do better during those early-learning years, the better our society can become in later years. Bill Jones, president and CEO of the area’s United Way, talks enthusiastically about “a correlation between graduation rates and the health and welfare of the community.”
A student who earns his or her diploma, research shows, is more likely to land a good-paying job and avoid life’s potential pitfalls: long-term unemployment, incarceration, addiction, poverty. Conversely, a high school dropout has a greater likelihood of needing to rely on welfare-type programs and the social safety net.
The summit’s participants will explore all sorts of strategies to boost graduation rates in the area, which vary by school district from well above average to what teachers might call “needs improvement.”
For the 2013-14 school year, GAR High School in Wilkes-Barre recorded a graduation rate of 72.5 percent, according to state Department of Education data. Wyoming Valley West High School that year registered a rate of about 86 percent. The Dallas and Crestwood districts hit 97.8 percent and 96.9 percent, respectively.
By comparison, the federal government this week announced that the national graduation rate for the 2014-15 school year had risen to an unprecedented 83.2 percent.
That’s encouraging news, and with involvement from area school directors and others, the Wyoming Valley can build further momentum around this issue, lifting local rates and improving lives.