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Every day, more than 7,000 students across the country drop out of school and over 1,000,000 students will not graduate on an annual basis with their peers.  Each high school dropout on average will result in a $260,000 burden on our society in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. Additionally, low-income students have been underrepresented for decades in colleges and universities and they are still less likely to enroll in institutions of higher learning even when they qualify academically.  Studies also show that low-income students are less likely to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is required for Stafford loans, Pell grants, and other forms of federal aid.

Education for a Better America (EBA) is announcing the launch of a higher education awareness and dropout prevention initiative aimed at urban high school students with the purpose of increasing the pursuit of post-secondary education. EBA President Dominique Sharpton (eldest daughter of Reverend Al Sharpton), stated that the organization’s mission is to “build bridges between policymakers and the classrooms by supporting innovations in the delivery of education; creating a dialogue between policymakers, community leaders, educators, parents, and students; and disseminating information and findings that will positively impact our schools.”

The program will partner with community leaders and organizations to expose students and parents to college planning, admissions, financial aid, and other pertinent information related to higher education. The new nationwide initiative will begin on October 27 at Florida Memorial University in Miami and proceed initially to Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York City.

Each program will include specific deliverables to ensure follow up. Examples of deliverables include FAFSA awareness, online career assessments, scholarship information, admissions requirements, and college tours. The agenda will include sessions on selecting a college, online certified medical assistant schools, admissions processes, entrance exam preparation, pre-college programs, scholarships, financial aid, and skills needed for college.  There will also be sessions aimed at addressing the holistic development of the students, including mentoring, community involvement, internships, maximizing the high school experience, and encouraging students to stay in school.

In addition to the breakout sessions, the initiative will feature a Youth Town Hall Meeting that will provide an opportunity for candidates at the national, state, county, and city level to discuss their youth development policy platform with engaged high-school-aged youth.  This organized forum will help elevate solutions by providing a place for concerned individuals to share their perspectives on the problems in their community, generate solutions and make policy recommendations to those who wish to represent all of their prospective constituents. Additionally, the program will include a college fair where students will be able to get information on local universities, community colleges, and other post-secondary educational institutions.

It was Malcolm X who said that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare it today.” Education is essential in the attempt to bring about the kind of social equity to which many people in our country aspire.

Our current educational system is one that is leaving many children behind.

The students that are being left behind are disproportionately poor and from minority groups.  It has become clear that we can no longer solely rely on the public school system to educate and inform our children.

We can’t continue to tell students that we want them to go to college but then not give them the knowledge and tools to do so. It is imperative that organizations and communities pool their resources and talent to provide meaningful information and services to young people through initiatives and organizations like Education for a Better America so that they can maximize their potential and create a better way of life for the next generation.