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Stay in School initiative aims to increase graduation rate by 2015

Date: 3/28/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Public Schools has set a goal to increase the graduation rate from 56.6 percent in 2012 to 77.4 percent by 2015 and a new campaign was announced to help the district achieve that increase.

With a group of Putnam Vocational Technical Academy students sitting on the school's central staircase as a backdrop, Dora Robinson, president of the United Way of the Pioneer Valley announced the "Stay in School" initiative.

Robinson said that over the next three years the initiative intends to engage the entire community through stories in the media and public service announcements.

She said, "It takes a village to graduate a student."

The central theme is "Show up. Every Day. It Matters. Stay in School."

On banners and in handouts at the March 25 event were facts about students who graduate:

• "A high school graduate will earn more about $500,000 more in a lifetime than a dropout, making graduates more likely to be self-sufficient.

• "High school graduates are healthier and live nearly 10 years longer than dropouts.

• "High school graduates are far less likely to commit crimes; eight out 10 people incarcerated didn't finish high school."

Several speakers linked the necessity of a high school diploma to success in the workforce.

Jeffrey Ciuffreda, executive director of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, said area employers are looking for educated workers and have expressed concern about how the 56 percent graduation rate might affect them.

State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera noted there is an established correlation between parents who work and their children who graduate from high school. Coakley-Rivera emphasized the goal of more students graduating is linked to increasing employment opportunities.

Speaking about the need to complete high school first-hand was Adelaida Ortiz. The mother of four said she "didn't understand the value of a high school degree." After she left school, she worked minimum wage jobs, but realized that more education was the key to better jobs. She completed her GED, enrolled in Springfield Technical Community College and now has a part-time job at the Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School.

Speaking of today's students, she said, "It's up to us to lead them."

Ariana Williams, a senior at Putnam and the student representative to the School Committee, said she was encouraged to challenge herself and take a higher level math course, even though math is not her favorite subject.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said, "The opportunity to succeed is here and you should take advantage of it."

To learn more about the Stay in School campaign go to