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WFSU American Graduate Update

Tallahassee Mayor Marks at the Ghazvini Learning Center. View all photos in WFSU's American Graduate photo album.

Through the American Graduate project WFSU is hosting a series of professional networking lunches for students at Ghazvini Learning Center. Once a month, 32 students are selected to attend the lunch and meet professionals from the community and learn firsthand what it takes to work in a particular profession. Students have the opportunity to have lunch with and ask questions of one of eight professionals representing different career paths.

American Graduate "helps students create the framework to fulfill a vision of success."

The 2012 events are scheduled as follows:

  • January 25th: Healthcare
  • February 22nd: Criminal justice & law enforcement
  • March 28th: Public service and nonprofit
  • April 25th: Arts, Communication & entertainment
  • May 23rd: Business and entrepreneurs

"It is important to know the difference between a dream and a vision," said Tallahassee, Florida Mayor John Marks during one of the lunches. "After you have a vision, you must lay a framework; the American Graduate project helps students create the framework to fulfill a vision of success."

Students have shared that they have learned “to push on towards your goal even when there are obstacles,” and the series "makes me happy to hear from people that love their careers.”

Leah Dienger, the teacher at Ghazvini who oversees the project commented, “The American Graduate professional lunch series has been an excellent way to connect students to their community and to a myriad of professions that they might have never known existed. Watching high school students light up when they hear a professional speak and share their passion in a particular career indicates that students have connected to the idea that having a profession is “cool” and is something to be attained at all costs.”

American Graduate 3 About

*Visit the national American Graduate website at

WFSU has been selected by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to be the American Graduate public media hub station for the North Florida area. American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting working with national partners, such as America's Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal is to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. The initiative builds upon public media's long-standing commitment to education by facilitating conversations and strengthening partnerships between public media stations and local schools, businesses, and community organizations. The goal is to help students stay on the path to a high school diploma.

WFSU will be working with five other stations in Florida: WLRN in Miami, WEDU and WUSF in Tampa, WDSC in Daytona Beach and WJCT in Jacksonville. There are 19 other American Graduate public media hub stations across the country that are part of this national initiative.

WFSU will implement awareness strategies and engagement activities in collaboration with local schools and other interested community partners.


Florida high school students are at risk for failure. The Alliance for Excellent Education indicates that just 63% of high school students graduate. As the economy evolves from an agriculture and tourism base, it can no longer fully absorb unskilled labor.  We must re-evaluate how we are supporting student success and if we are creating pathways that take students from school to career.  Educators must determine what motivates students, how they learn and how we can be more successful in supporting students towards positive outcomes.

American Graduate 2 Projects & Events

Operation AGES (American Graduate to Economic Security)Connecting Teens to their Future

GOALS: To connect students to their future; to understand the importance and value of a high school diploma; to map pathways to jobs and careers.

DESIGN:  18-week program meeting once a week for a class period (January 2012-May 2012).  25 students from the Ghazvini Learning Center will be selected to participate in an intensive examination on connecting to future aspirations through a series of exercises that examine social and emotional well-being, preparing for academic success and learning about potential professions.

LEADERSHIP: WFSU will contract Zachary Richardson, President of the Character Center. Zack Richardson has more than 20 years of professional experience teaching, counseling, and mentoring "at-risk" youth of all ages. To date he has spoken, trained, and performed before more than 20,000 students and parents.

Kick-Off Event

Tuesday, January 17th, 6:00-7:00 pm at Ghazvini Learning Center – parents welcome.

WFSU facilitates field trips and mentoring opportunities for participants in the project.  WFSU hosted a graduation for the first cohort of teens on December 7th, 2011 at WFSU.

The Florida Teacher Town Hall Meeting will take place on April 28th, 2012. WJCT in Jacksonville will host.

How Can You Help?

Become a mentor, volunteer at a school or after school program, talk to teens about your career and help connect a student to their future. Contact Kim Kelling-Engstrom: or 850-487-3170 x326.

American Graduate 1 Television, Radio, & print

WFSU Dimensions
WFSU's Kim Kelling-Engstrom gets perspective on the drop-out crisis through interviews with local education story-makers on WFSU-TV's Dimensions.

View Related Video

Television Documentary: The Graduation Gateway
This WFSU-TV documentary examines Florida’s High School Graduation Rate and efforts to increase it. The focus includes what not having a diploma means in the search for a job and ways the state is trying to make all high school students career ready.

View Related Video

Radio Series
WFSU-FM will produce an ongoing American Graduate radio series featuring voices from the community. These two-minute radio segments will air once a week between January 2012 and December 2012.  The audio segments will be archived on this website.

Download/View "How You Can Help" Flyer


Dropouts and poorly prepared students negatively affect the economy:
  • Nearly 90,500 students did not graduate from Florida’s high schools in 2010; the lost lifetime earnings in Florida for that class of dropouts alone total nearly $24 billion;
  • Florida could save as much as $1.5 billion in health care costs over the lifetimes of each class of dropouts had they earned their diplomas;
  • If Florida’s high schools graduated all of their students ready for college, the state could save as much as $194 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings;
  • Florida’s economy could see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of about $507 million each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent.
High school and college completion rates need imporvement:

Florida High School Graduation Rates (Class of 2007)
State-Reported U.S. Department of Education-Reported Independently Reported
70% 65% 62%
Florida High School Graduation Rates by Race (Class of 2007)
Florida Florida Nation
All Students 62% 69%
White 68% 76%
Black 51% 51%
Hispanic 58% 55%
Asian 83% 79%
American Indian 51% 50%

MORE >> Source: Florida High Schools – Alliance for Excellent Education (PDF)

LOCAL Partners

The Success Academy at Ghazvini Learning Center
Ghazvini Success Academy logo Ghazvini Learning Center (GLC), formerly the Alternative Learning Center, was started in 1991 as an alternative to complete expulsion from schools in the Leon County School District. Ghazvini Learning Center has no specific schools or neighborhoods that serve as an established feeder. Students, grades K-12 who attend GLC, reside within the boundaries of the Leon County School District. The goal of the school is to provide a "second chance" for students who can be legally excluded from participation in school and who have no other educational options. Students are enrolled weekly throughout the school year.

The focus is to improve student behavior while adhering to district academic requirements. Many students who attend Ghazvini Learning Center have violated the Leon County Student Code of Conduct at their previous school setting resulting in an expulsion. GLC also accepts students that come from other school districts or programs. These students are then placed at GLC through the school board decision-making process, which includes stipulation agreements in lieu of expulsions. Additionally, GLC student population includes students who commit felony law violations in the community and students who are returning from, or who have been terminated from, the Department of Juvenile Justice programs. GLC receives voluntary placements by the student guardian in situations where the structure and online acceleration core curriculum plus the availability of course/credit retrieval options provide an environment for optimal student success.

Back to the Basics at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center (PMTC)
PMTC logo This PMTC project is funded through a grant from the Ounce of Prevention using Project Aim curriculum. Project AIM is a group-level youth development intervention designed to reduce HIV risk behaviors among youth. It is based on the Theory of Possible Selves and encourages at-risk youth to imagine a positive future and discuss how current risk behaviors can be a barrier to a successful adulthood.

Project AIM consists of twelve sessions divided into four parts. Project AIM uses group discussions, interactive and small group activities, and role-plays to encourage youth to explore their personal interests, social surrounding, and what they want to become as an adult. Activities include taking a career interest inventory, developing business cards and resumes, and participating in interviews. These activities allow youth to envision themselves in a future career and involve them in the planning and decision-making for their future. Target age is eleven to fourteen.

Distinguished Young Gentlemen of America, Inc
Ramon Alexander, Program Director (DYG)

PMTC logoDistinguished Young Gentlemen of America, Inc. (DYG) is a national non-profit entity fully committed to addressing a myriad of multi-dimensional issues permeating throughout the world. DYG of America, Inc. firmly stands on the principles of Manly Deeds, Academic Excellence, and Servant Leadership. Our comprehensive strategies encompass an innovative accelerated student curriculum designed to tangibly impact the quality of life of young men.

WFSU will be working with the Tallahassee chapter providing mentoring and tutoring support.


Funded by:
CPB logo