AT&T Invests $250 Million to Educate At-Risk Youth with Aspire Initiative

by Latoya Livingston on March 21, 2012

It is an unfortunate fact, but nearly one-fourth of all students—and nearly forty percent of African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students—fail to graduate with their class.  In an effort to combat those numbers, AT&T launched its Aspire Initiativein 2008, which is specifically focused on confronting the high school dropout crisis and to help ensure that students will graduate prepared for the future challenges of continuing education and the workforce.

While education funding has been hit hard these past few years, the $100 million philanthropic program is doing its part to ensure that technology-based programs aren’t a casualty to budgeting push and pull.  Yesterday, Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s Chairman and CEO, upped the ante when he pledged an additional $250 million investment into its Aspire Initiative to a crowd of hundreds at America’s Promise Alliance’s “Building a Grad Nation” Summit.  This came on the heels of Charlene Lake’s—AT&T’s Sr. Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability Officer—nationwide announcement of the investment on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien” earlier that same morning.

AT&T Aspire, the largest education initiative in AT&T’s history, is designed to “support high school success and workforce readiness.”  It includes four primary components:

  1. Grants to school districts and nonprofit organizations focused on high school retention and better preparing students for college and/or the workforce.
  2. Job shadowing for 100,000 students, in conjunction with Junior Achievement, giving students the chance to see firsthand the job skills they will need to be successful in the future.
  3. Commissioning the next chapter of major research on the high school dropout issue and solutions by directly engaging education practitioners.
  4. Underwriting Dropout Prevention summits, organized by America’s Promise Alliance, which will explore the high school dropout crisis and ways to address it.

In addition, there is the AT&T Aspire Local High School Impact Initiative Request for Proposal (RFP).  This program is focused on high school success and college and career readiness programs that will maintain AT&T’s commitment to support local organizations that are delivering results that help reduce the dropout rates in their communities.

AT&T has expressed a special interest in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and increasing the number of minority and underrepresented students in these fields.  AT&T will therefore also give additional consideration to organizations that focus on the STEM disciplines in their programs for students who are at risk of dropping out of school and encourage these students to pursue these fields of study in college and career when evaluating the RFPs.

AT&T’s financial commitment to the nation’s youth is vitally important because without a significant investment into technology-based education, our children’s ability to compete on the world stage would be seriously encumbered.  It is not enough that teens are able to update their statuses on Facebook or tweet.  They must know to effectively research online and efficiently find and utilize tools to supplement their learning.

However, the commitment to technology-based education doesn’t stop with the students.  Teachers must also be taught what Bob Wise, President of Alliance for Excellent Education, called “The Three Ts”:

Teaching: Examine how teachers are involved when students use technology.  How does teaching change with technology?

Technology: What is the right technology necessary for a particular situation?

Time: How will the teacher instruct the students to use their time with technology, and which is more effective for each student?  Would at-home study or in-school study be best to advance the students’ progression?

As education standards have gone up and the cost of technology has gone down, we need to use technology to educate our children more effectively.

As Hope Johnston, an academic support specialist at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said during the summit, “Do not prepare kids for our past.  We must prepare them for their futures.”  Fortunately, AT&T is doing its part to ensure that this happens, and hopefully more companies will follow suit with an equally generous investment into America’s future.

  • Latoya Livingston

    Latoya Livingston is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney with years of experience working in the public and private sector. Attorney Livingston joins MMTC after performing pro bono work for the organization last year.

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  • JCraigdc

    Focus on STEM coupled with job shadowing is so important. So many teens have no clue about what’s out there for them after high school and even less of an idea of what it takes to be successful in today’s workforce. Glad to see major telcos doing good work for the public.

  • Anonymous

    Traditional classrooms are going to have to change in order to hold the attention of today’s tech savvy students.  I love what Hope Johnston said, “Do not prepare kids for our past.  We must prepare them for their future.”  Our past will never catch up with the future when it comes to technology and all the opportunities for learning that it provides.  Other companies should include this on their “to do” list.  Gotta love AT & T! 

  • Anonymous

    Wow! $250 Million? Very Nice! Although funding for education continues to drop, expectations for students still rise. There are so many opportunities to get kids excited about learning when technology is involved. When I walk into a classroom where technology is being used, (Smart Boards, laptops, tablets, etc), I see a classroom engaged in learning.
    AT & T “gets” it. So proud!!

  • Anonymous


  • N. Small

    Students learn differently now because of technology. Students are used to
    having multiple sources and being able to have more social collaboration in
    their learning process rather than just doing it sitting quietly and reading. Unfortunately the cost to go digital can be problematic, especially as state budgets continue to be cut.  But those budget cuts won’t stop the rest of the world from evolving and becoming more reliant on technology. Thankfully AT&T is stepping in and helping to ensure more kids are prepared to enter the real world.

  • Telcomm Girl

    Telcomm Girl

    It is great to see
    how AT&T Aspire is making a difference in schools across the border.
    Minorities rank the lowest in obtaining technology driven careers and this
    initiative is helping by taking a few steps towards the right direction.
    Technology drives this era and allowing students the opportunity to gain key
    essentials necessary to make it post-graduation is phenomenal.

  • Pingback: AT&T Continues to Inspire with Aspire Initiative

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