As educators, policy makers, and other leaders gathered in Washington on Monday for the Building a Grad Nation Summit, it’s no surprise that one of the first people they heard from was AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson.
The telecom chief announced a $250 million campaign to reduce the high school dropout rate over the next five years. That’s on top of the $100 million the company has spent since 2008 to fund similar initiatives through an effort it calls AT&T Aspire.
Much of the new money will continue to fund research, as well as dropout prevention programs that include counseling, technology training, mentoring, and other ways to both keep kids in school and get them ready for college. But AT&T is also looking to expand its investment to new technologies that keep students engaged in learning through social media, game technologies, and Web content. In June, for example, it will sponsor a “hackathon” in Palo Alto, Calif., aimed at spurring innovative apps.
Charlene Lake, who leads AT&T’s initiative as chief sustainability officer, says the goal of increased funding is “more reach but also reach in different ways. We’re looking for new ways to accelerate the success rates.”