Chapter 4
II. Organizing a Dropout Prevention/Graduation Improvement Summit to inspire and mobilize support

A local Dropout Prevention/Graduation Improvement Summit can be a powerful way to help implement your community’s plan.
Some communities may choose to hold a summit as part of the process of Rallying Your Community to End the Dropout Crisis (Part I). This kind of early-phase summit will help you educate key people about the facts of the crisis and build support for devising and implementing a plan.

In other communities, a summit may be more effective later in the process, after compiling research findings, developing a plan and identifying leaders, team members, partner organizations and agencies and parents willing to be involved. The summit brings them together so they can go forward enthusiastically on the same track. Based on the preliminary work of the Dropout Prevention and Graduation Team and the work groups, invite 150 to 200 leaders from all sectors of the community to the summit. There, present the data and make the case for local action. Seek commitment for future involvement from all summit participants before they leave.

Community summits work. Between 2008 and 2010, America’s Promise co-convened and funded Dropout Prevention summits in all 50 states and 55 cities. An independent evaluation revealed that the 105 summits helped raise awareness, develop and strengthen partnerships, and influence policies and programming around high school dropout prevention at the state, local and school levels.

A new national Grad Nation campaign to encourage 100 local summits will begin in the fall of 2013. Contact America’s Promise for information and organizing suggestions.

At the summit

Set expectations: Let participants know a Community Graduation Compact will be completed within a year of the summit.

Personalize the experience: Emphasize that people and relationships are vital in keeping students on graduation pathways. Honor community contributions. Invite guests to share their perspectives on why they care, why improvement is needed, what they already are doing, and what they would like to learn and do in the future. Make sure young people talk about their experiences as dropouts and near dropouts, but also showcase success stories featuring students who turned themselves around, as well caring adults who supported them in these efforts.

Get to work: Show how serious your initiative is and how capable your people are by involving guests, working in groups, or using self-directed tools, in half- to full-day sessions.

Sign them up: Seek an “exit ticket” card from each participant, committing the person to some level of action. Options might include:

  • Become a member of the lead Dropout Prevention and Graduation Improvement Team
  • Chair or join one of the work groups
  • Provide other support that will help mobilize the community for action
  • Commit to being part of the Community Graduation Compact

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