• WisBusiness

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scott T. VanderSanden: Helping students aspire to success


By Scott VanderSanden
Did you know that one in four students – more than one million a year – fails to graduate with their class?

This is a troubling statistic – and one we are trying to do something about at AT&T. Through our Aspire program, we’ve worked with organizations across the country over the last four years to help reverse this trend and reach the national goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020. Although the high school dropout rate has shown improvement, it is still a critical problem, particularly in an era when competition for jobs among people and among nations is intense.

In our continued effort to address this vital issue, we’re excited to launch a new phase of Aspire. We’re investing $250 million over five years to build on our efforts to help more students graduate from high school prepared for careers and college and to ensure our nation is better prepared for global competition. Aspire has already impacted over 1 million students with $100 million invested since 2008, and now we are doubling down on America’s students and future.

In Wisconsin, we’ve always placed a premium on education, and we’re delighted to have played a role in student success.

In the first phase of Aspire, AT&T provided a $227,000 grant to help the Madison Metropolitan School District not only launch the AVID/TOPS program to better prepare students for college, but to also expand it to nearly 500 students in all four Madison high schools.

In Milwaukee, a $360,000 Aspire grant funded the Restorative Justice and Math Achievement programs at Bradley Tech and Vincent High Schools in Milwaukee that have been successful in reducing suspension rates and increasing test scores in math.

With our new Aspire, we’ll take a “socially innovative” approach that goes beyond traditional philanthropy, engaging people and technology to create new and different solutions to social problems.

In today’s world, the mobile Internet is omnipresent. Students of all ages are adept at using this powerful resource, and its potent power must be harnessed for the cause of education. Aspire will leverage technology to connect with students in new and more effective ways, including an emphasis on gamification, mobile applications, video and social media.

But technology alone will not solve the education challenge. It takes people, too.

We plan to take our current Job Shadow program to a new level with the Aspire Mentoring Academy and provide more opportunities for our employees to work with students at-risk of dropping out to help them succeed in the classroom and in life.

Local community organizations will also be vital to the success of Aspire. Wisconsin organizations can now submit applications for Aspire funding until April 18 by visiting www.att.com/education-news.

Our Aspire investment is not only an investment in our children’s future, but in the future of America.

Through Aspire, we can help create a pipeline of diverse talent for all U.S. companies by ensuring our students graduate high school equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to strengthen the nation’s workforce.

-- VanderSanden is president of AT&T Wisconsin.

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Comments: 1

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