East HS Wins ‘My Idea’ Grant From AT&T and America’s Promis Alliance to Encourage Students to Stay in School

AT&T* and America’s Promise Alliance (the Alliance) today announced that Des Moines East High School has been selected to receive a $10,000 My Idea  grant given nationally to students who develop projects that engage young people and encourage fellow students to stay in school and graduate.

AT&T’s $1 million contribution to the Alliance for their Grad Nation Initiative is designed to provide young people nationwide with the opportunity to develop and implement their own ideas for increasing the nation’s graduation rate.  A total of 110 winners were selected by the Alliance from applicants representing 35 states and the District of Columbia, to receive funding of up to $20,000 each for their youth-led projects.

Des Moines East High School’s Project YOU! program, developed by a student organization called the Scarlet Mentors, was one of the student projects selected for the national grant. The Project YOU! program is a comprehensive peer-to-peer initiative in which students develop a multifaceted program to engage peers who are at risk of dropping out.

The program focuses on attendance as well as career and academic development.  Students in the Scarlet Mentors will work with 100 at risk students to give them somebody that they can turn to with questions or concerns.  The mentors give these students a friendly face and somebody who they can trust.

The program will also help generate increased awareness of positive and fun school activities to encourage student involvement and make school a more attractive place to learn and socialize.  The students plan to utilize the student newspaper, the school district TV station, posters and the school website to highlight school activities, achievements and resources.

In addition, Project YOU! will promote civic and school engagement through a partnership with Youth Venture/Community Youth Concepts. This group works and supports teams of students on social change projects in the community.

“My team and I are excited to be starting Project YOU!” said Shelby Jackson, a senior at East High School and one of the student leaders responsible for developing the grant-winning project.  “We are all ready to be, not only mentors, but friends with 9th grade students. We love the idea of our school having positive activities promoted around campus and getting students recognized for their work and achievements.”

“I am very proud of the students that have taken on the challenge of designing and implementing Project YOU! and the Scarlet Mentors,” said Lyn Marchant, the Communities in Schools Site Coordinator at East High. “While East High administration and teachers are working very hard to change the culture and increase achievement, it is very energizing to see that many students have the same interest at heart. Project YOU! is working to mobilize students and assist them in having their ideas and voices heard. This grant is giving students wonderful experiences and will impact the entire school. We appreciate the opportunity that  AT&T and APA  have provided to our Scarlet Mentors team. It is partnerships and support such as this that can provide opportunities for students that they never dream possible.”

“America’s Promise Alliance and AT&T’s collaborated effort to inspire youth to become proactive in helping their classmates graduate on time highlights the joint commitment to make this country a Grad Nation,” said Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance.  “The My Idea grant program is a perfect example of engaging all the critical stakeholders in the fight to help end the high school dropout crisis by supporting outstanding initiatives proposed by young people from around the country.”

“Our youth have credibility with their peers and need to be directly involved in charting solutions to the dropout issue,” said Beth Canuteson, Director-External Affairs for AT&T Iowa.  “Through this initiative not only are their voices heard, but they also are learning how to work within their communities to translate ideas into action.”

The AT&T contribution and the My Idea Grants program are an important component of Grad Nation, the next phase of the Alliance’s highly successful Dropout Prevention campaign.  A 10-year initiative, Grad Nation is focused on mobilizing Americans to end the dropout crisis and ensuring that young people have the key supports they need for college and a 21st century career.  This work will pay special attention to areas of the country where the need is the greatest, especially communities surrounding the nation’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schools, which account for approximately 50 percent of all young people who drop out of school.

AT&T’s contribution is one of the largest gifts ever made to the Alliance and was made through the AT&T Aspire program, the corporation’s $100 million commitment to help students succeed in high school, the workforce, and in life.

AT&T is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. As part of its commitment, AT&T launched Aspire in April 2008. AT&T Aspire is one of the largest-ever corporate commitments to address high school success and workforce readiness.

To view a full list of My Idea grant recipients and to learn more about Grad Nation initiatives please visit: www.americaspromise.org.

The Des Moines Independent Community School District is Iowa’s largest provider of public education serving the individual needs of more than 31,000 students in 66 schools with more than 5,000 dedicated teachers and staff. For more information about Des Moines Public Schools visit www.dmps.k12.ia.us.
*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.