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Education, Business and Community Leaders in Philadelphia Gather for GradNation Community Summit

Philadelphia Summit 50th of 100 Nationwide Examining Challenges and Solutions for Raising High School Graduation Rates and Preparing All Young People for Success

Category: Project U-Turn | Jun 12, 2015

Philadelphia  – Community officials, business leaders, educators, parents and youth in Philadelphia announced plans today to examine local data and identify what’s working and where challenges remain in the area’s efforts to prepare young people for success in and out of school. Project U-Turn, a local youth initiative, hosted the Philadelphia GradNation Community Summit, entitled Rising to the Challenge: Expanding Citywide Commitment to Narrow the Skills Gap, which served as a launching pad for the development of a multi-year community action plan that outlines how Philadelphia will accelerate efforts to raise the high school graduation rate.

The Summit is the 50th of 100 that will be held around the country through 2016. The Summits are co-sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance as part of its GradNation campaign, a national movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and increase postsecondary enrollment and completion.

“Being selected to host the 50th GradNation Community Summit in Philadelphia is an honor we are eager and excited to take on,” said Project U-Turn Co-Chair, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend. “Since its inception in 2006, the Project U-Turn collaborative has maintained a clear focus on increasing the high school graduation rates of young people and reengaging those who have disconnected from school. Hosting the GradNation Community Summit will shed light on the importance of research-driven initiatives that drive our work locally, while also focusing on the regional and national landscapes as it relates to dropout prevention, reengagement and workforce preparation to ensure more young people are graduating from high school and securing successful, meaningful careers.”

America’s Promise was founded in Philadelphia in 1997 at the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, which brought together thousands of leaders from across the country, including four living presidents, to refocus the nation’s attention on the needs of children and youth. Together, they signed a Summit Declaration on the steps of Independence Hall that serves as the guiding force for the movement they started and for America’s Promise Alliance.

“We are honored to be a part of the summit this year. With the improvement that we have seen since Project U-Turn’s inception, continual strides in terms of graduation rates have been made. The graduation rate is slowly rising and we are doing everything we can to move the needle,” said Project U-Turn co-chair, Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend.

The recently released 2015 Building a Grad Nation report announced that the national graduation rate now stands at 81.4 percent. For the third year in a row the country has been on track to meet the goal of 90 percent national graduation rate by the class of 2020.

While the city has seen significant increases in their graduation rates since 2006, Philadelphia is still about 15 percentage points lower than the national average.

“I’m proud to be here today at GradNation to talk about this very important issue of improving high school graduation rates and I commend this network on the tremendous progress made towards this goal in Philadelphia,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “I’m committed to supporting the educational success of all students in Pennsylvania from pre-school through higher education.” 

The event was highlighted with other distinguished speakers, such as, Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

“Our Administration has been focused on improving the high school graduation rate and college attainment rate since day one so that our city’s economy and quality of life may continue to grow. Addressing the skills gap is key to preparing our young people for success in higher-learning and the workforce,” said Mayor Nutter. “I’m looking forward to the GradNation Summit and the positive next steps it will produce. I want to thank Project U-Turn, America’s Promise Alliance and AT&T for bringing this summit to Philadelphia.”

Other attendees include John Gomperts, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance and Jennifer Kemp from the U.S Department of Labor.

“The Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future in Philadelphia signified more than the beginning of a campaign for America’s youth; it provided a call to action to all Americans to take responsibility within their organizations and communities to make the promise of America real for every child,” said John Gomperts, president & CEO, America’s Promise. “The 50th GradNation Community Summit is an opportunity for us to recommit to that goal and advance the GradNation campaign so that all young people – in Philadelphia and beyond – can graduate from high school and have a chance to reach their full potential.”

Research has shown that when young people have access to more of the essential academic, health and life resources, what America’s Promise calls the “Five Promises” – caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others – the more likely they are to succeed academically and socially. Summit attendees will discuss how Philadelphia can better align programs supporting youth around these Five Promises.

The premier sponsor of the national GradNation Community Summits initiative is AT&T, whose support is part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s $350 million commitment to graduate more students from high school ready for college and career. The other national sponsor is Southwest Airlines. Local sponsors for the event include IBM, Cozen O’Conner and Accenture.

“The business community has a huge stake in this issue, and working with educators, parents and nonprofits at the local level is the best way to ensure we stay on track. Our collective future depends on it, and it will take all of us working together to achieve it,” commented J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid Atlantic.

For more information and to learn how to get involved visit To learn more about Project U-Turn visit


About Project U-Turn
Project U-Turn is a citywide campaign to understand, focus public attention on and, most importantly, resolve Philadelphia's dropout crisis through the use of a collective impact strategy. Project U-Turn is led by a cross-sector collaborative with representation from the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the Mayor's Office of Education (MOE), the city's Department of Human Services (DHS), family court, local foundations, and youth advocacy groups, as well as young people. The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is the backbone organization for the effort.

About America’s Promise Alliance
America’s Promise Alliance leads more than 400 organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to making the promise of America real for every child. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce.

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