Former Houston Mayor Bill White took office in 2004 with a vow to address a particularly troubling statistic in our community: about four out of ten Houston-area ninth-graders never graduate from high school.
That year, Andrea White, Houston A+ Challenge and then-Houston ISD Superintendent Kaye Stripling convened an education summit with nearly 400 community and civic leaders. The present Superintendent of HISD, Dr. Terry Grier, immediately embraced Expectation Graduation and has continued the work that began in that summit.
Real-time results are still being felt since the Education Summit as Expectation Graduation projects expand throughout the community and schools.
The annual Reach Out to Dropouts walk has attracted more than 20,600 volunteers who personally visit youth who do not return to school. The Walk has expanded to include 22 cities across Texas and 18 Houston-area school districts. Other cities continue to replicate this successful effort.
Mayor White also sent “Commit to Graduate” letters to Houston ninth-graders. Over 19,000 students signed and returned their individual pledges to stay in school. Students were treated to sports and entertainment events in response to their commitment.
Mentors and dropout prevention specialists add to the personal theme. Expectation Graduation has developed a “virtual mentoring” program that is being expanded by Communities in Schools – Houston.
Start young, start early. Dropout prevention never comes too soon. In 2009, Expectation Graduation continued its pilot of the Summer Opportunity Session with Houston ISD and included 590 students from every region of the school district. The four-week program kept the learning experience alive during summer vacation at Bruce, Berry, Bonham, Rodriguez, Lockhart, Sanchez, and Reynolds elementary schools.
The organization continues to develop partnerships. More school districts, as well as other organizations are becoming involved.
Thanks to all of Expectation Graduation’s partners, and the year-long work of Dropout Prevention Specialists, thousands of area students have returned to school.