- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eighteen years ago, four former presidents gathered on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia with firm intent, and strategic allegiance.

Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton — with former first lady Nancy Reagan, representing her husband — signed a declaration that was more than a dramatic photo-op.

“Two centuries ago, America was founded on the proposition that just as all people are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, citizenship entails undeniable responsibilities,” the document read. “As each of us has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, each of us has an obligation to give something back to country and community … We owe a debt of service to fulfill the God-given promise of America, and our children.”

The five challenged the nation to make youth a priority — a presidential push that ultimately has grown into the America’s Promise Alliance. Retired Gen. Colin Powell became founding chairman as the group reached out to 6 million young people under age 24 who were either out of the classroom or out of work. Among their straightforward promises: find caring adults, and provide safe places, a healthy outlook, effective education and opportunity.

Last week the organization recognized key contributors in meeting its education and health care goals for the nation’s youngest citizens.

“We must all continue to do our part to keep the promise of America alive for every child,” Alliance board chairwoman Alma J. Powell told an audience at the historic Howard Theater in Northwest Washington. “For the past 18 years, America’s Promise Alliance has been a catalyst for this promise by leading campaigns, like GradNation; convening key leaders in communities across the country to examine challenges and find solutions; and conducting research, like our Don’t Call Them Dropouts study, that is changing the national conversation.”


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At the first annual Promise Night Awards on Wednesday, the organization recognized pivotal players such as Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc., which has committed $350 million to fund AT&T Aspire, an educational program emphasizing student success.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a former U.S. education secretary, also was honored for his four decades of service as a child advocate.

In addition, Wes Moore, founder of Bridge EdU, which provides transitional education between high school and college, and Beatrice Welters and Anthony Welters, co-founders of the AnBryce Foundation, which provides scholarships and a summer camp retreat, were lauded for their youth-focused efforts.

The Alliance continues to have its eye on the future and results.

“As we work toward our GradNation campaign goal of reaching a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020, we are seeing tremendous progress on the ground thanks in part to our honorees and national alliance partners — nearly 400 organizations and over 100 communities — working together to move the needle forward and create the conditions of success that all young people need to thrive,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise.

According to figures released by the Alliance and three other groups, 24 states have increased their high school graduation rates by “modest to large gains,” while the number of high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time — often referred to as “dropout factories”— has steadily decreased in recent years.

The Alliance encompasses more than 380 partner groups focused on identifying challenges and funding solutions.

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