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May 6, 2015
Every year around this time, birds start singing, flowers start to sprout, and 17-18 year old high school students don their graduation cap and walk across the stage for their diploma. For most youth, it is the culmination of 13 years of hard work and endeavor, setting the tone for the rest of their lives.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average wage for a high school graduate is approximately $30,000. If that graduate goes on to earn a bachelor's degree, their annual earnings increase to over $56,000 per year. However, not every student graduates from high school on time. On average, a student who does not complete their high school degree will earn only $20,241 annually. In addition to lower earnings, failing to graduate from high school comes with a slew of other challenges, such as a greater chance of living in poverty, being unemployed, or becoming incarcerated.
High school graduation is an issue that effects all of us. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if Colorado's graduation rate was to increase from 77% to 90%, then the state would see an increase of $101 million in earnings and an additional $4.6 million in tax revenue.
While graduation rates for Colorado and the U.S. have been growing in recent years, Larimer County has seen a decreasing number of students graduating. In 2013, 81.6% of students graduated on time. This past year, in 2014, that number dropped to 79.5%. Given the economic and social impact of high school graduation, this is a concerning trend.
High school graduation is a complex issue, and there is no one reason for students dropping out. There are however a couple of common themes in those students who do not graduate on time.
The environment that a student grows up in is a key predictor of future success. Those students from low income backgrounds have a much higher dropout rate (16.7%) compared to their high income classmates (3.2%). By working to help people in poverty, we are increasing their children's chances of success in school.
Another major factor in high school graduation is a student's reading level by the time they finish third grade. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 16% of students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate from high school on time. This means that these students are four times more likely to incur the costs associated with being held back and failing to graduate.
Collective Impact- United Way is devoting its time, energy, and resources to creating effective collaborations with organizations that support student success. These organizations focus their efforts on positive mentoring for youth to keep them on track in school as well as providing direct help for youth who are engaging in risky behaviors, such as drugs and alcohol.
United Way of Larimer County is also focused on creating valuable relationships with the Larimer County Workforce Center and other post-secondary employment partners to help create successful career pathways for youth in Larimer County. A student being able to see a clear career path for themselves can be a major motivating factor towards high school graduation.
Colorado Reading Corps- As was mentioned above, the ability of a student to read in third grade directly impacts their success as they grow older and progress through the school system. Colorado Reading Corps, an initiative of United Way of Larimer County, is working throughout Thompson School District to help improve K-3 students' reading scores. Our tutors provide direct one-on-one literacy help with students. So far, we have served 377 students, with over 90% of them showing academic and literacy progress. This program helps students get on track to being successful in school and in life.
Be Ready- Entering school ready to learn contributes significantly to graduating on time. By providing parents with great tips and activities for their young children, Be Ready helps kids be prepared for a lifetime of success in school and in life. United Way provides funding and direction for Be Ready, along with two Early Childhood School Readiness Navigators who work directly with families with young children to help them access resources that support early learning and future success.
GIVE - A gift toUnited Way of Larimer County's Community Impact Fund ensures all children and youth will be prepared for post-secondary success in school, work, and life.
ADVOCATE - Tell your friends about the importance of students graduating from school on time.
VOLUNTEER - Youth in Larimer County need great role models and mentors. United Way is partnered with many youth-oriented programs in our local community. Call United Way 2-1-1 (970-407-7066) to be referred to the best mentorship program for you!
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County