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Denzel Washington pairs with Boys & Girls Clubs to curb high school dropout rates

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Denzel Washington pairs with Boys & Girls Clubs to curb high school dropout rates

(Knoxville, Tenn.) – October 6 – America’s youth need your help. Did you know that a young person drops out of high school every 26 seconds and that 1.3 million students in the class of 2010 failed to graduate? If these students had graduated, our nation’s economy would have benefitted from more than $335 billion in income over their lifetimes. 

To address the graduation gap and the lost potential among America’s young people, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley is joining Clubs across the country to align its program offerings into three major areas – academic success, good character and leadership and healthy lifestyles. The ultimate goal is to measure outcomes and curb the escalating high school dropout rate. 

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley is an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), one of the world’s largest networks of facility-based youth development organizations whose mission focuses on serving young people during out-of-school time. Across the nation, Clubs have an extensive reach into low-income and minority communities where dropout rates are highest. The Clubs believe their access to children after school and during summers, and their proven ability to exert positive influence when kids are not at home or in school, create a powerful opportunity to help keep young people on a positive educational track.

“We believe there is a third piece to the education equation that is too often left out of the conversation. In addition to the critical influence of home and school, the impact that can be exerted during the nonschool hours, including weekends and summers, as well as after school, is a significant factor,” said John D. Lee of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley. “We are focusing on this largely untapped opportunity, in partnership with local schools and parents, to help our most vulnerable Club members learn to value education and realize its role in determining their future success.”  

“Our goal is simple to state, but hard to achieve, unless the entire nation understands and responds to this dropout crisis,” said Denzel Washington, a Club alumnus who has served as the organization’s national spokesperson for 18 years. “We want to help every Boys & Girls Club member advance to the next grade level every year, and graduate from high school on time, prepared with the attitude, knowledge and confidence to achieve their full potential. It’s what we mean by ‘Great Futures Start Here.’”

Research indicates that young people who drop out of high school are more likely to be unemployed, be in poor health, be involved with crime, use illegal drugs and become dependent on public assistance. They also are less likely to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. 

But the high school dropout crisis is a problem that can be solved, according to Dr. Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, who has collaborated with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Just 12 percent of America’s 20,000 high schools account for 50 percent of dropouts and almost 75 percent of minority dropouts,” Balfanz said.

The age statistics for the young people served by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley indicate the organization’s considerable potential to help keep them on track early on, when poor attitudes and habits begin to form, said Lee. “Seventy-six percent of our members are between the ages of 6 and 12, when we can impress upon them how important education is to their future. Our staff serves as mentors, tutors and role models that kids look up to and respect. Their influence really makes a difference.”

Evidence of Impact
Boys & Girls Clubs across the country have already seen dramatic evidence that a holistic approach, including an emphasis on academic success, good character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles, is effective. 

According to a Harris Survey of Club alumni, BGCA’s emphasis on education pays off for youth:
* 90 percent of Club alumni graduate from high school or earn a GED.
* Nearly two-thirds reported that Club staff contributed to their success in high school.  

The High School Dropout Crisis – By the Numbers:
* One-third of America’s children do not graduate from high school.
* Nationally, 1.3 million students in the class of 2010 failed to graduate with a high school diploma.
* For Latino and African-American males, the rate rises to nearly 50 percent.
* The U.S. is the only industrialized country where young people are less likely than their parents to obtain a high school diploma.  

“Everyone can have a role in supporting a youth development program, such as ours, that reaches kids during the out-of-school hours,” said Lee. “Be a volunteer tutor or mentor, join a board, make a financial contribution. There are plenty of ways to help,” he said.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley
Boys & Girls of the Tennessee Valley serves some 5,825 young people, ages 6-17, annually in Knox, Blount, Loudon and North Anderson Counties. The programs offered positively impact the lives of Club members with a special emphasis on outcomes that assure academic success, healthy lifestyles and productive citizenship. Clubs provide a safe place to learn and grow, enjoy ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, participate in life-enhancing programs and character development experiences and provide hope and opportunity to the youth they serve. Learn more at www.BGCTNV.org.

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