July 7th, 2011

A guest post from Hess Fellow David Olsen:

Hannah, Kristina and I recently attended the David Mathews Center’s “Making Community Decisions About Alabama’s Dropout Situation” at Auburn University Montgomery.

David visits with community organizations.

I learned that high school dropouts earn $10,000 less a year than high school graduates and $1,000,000 less over a lifetime than those with a bachelors degree.

And 75 percent of all state prison inmates dropped out of high school.

Hannah was there to present our Blueprints College Access Initiative along with our partnerUniversity of Montevallo Service-Learning Coordinator Dr. Hollie Cost, and I visited with other community-based programs targeting educational attainment.


Two words stood out throughout the day: engagement and innovation.

Most programs engage others to keep kids in schools. What surprised me was that they all do it differently.

Innovation was also a common theme. The problems facing our schools are not simple, so we must be creative and adapt to a new generation of students.

But for a moment, I doubted if all of this work actually made a difference.

Then Keynote Speaker Dr. Tommy Bice told us that Alabama had the nation’s fourth largest gain in graduation rates between 2002-2008.

This stuff does work.