Graduation Matters was the brainchild of Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle, but it’s sweeping across all of Montana now.

And picking up steam as it goes. Here’s the latest news:

New Donors Invest in

Graduation Matters Challenge Fund

$190,000 Available to Support Graduation Matters Communities

Helena, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau announced the availability of $190,000 in grants from the Graduation Matters Challenge Fund to support new and existing Graduation Matters initiatives.  This year, AT&T has added $20,000 to the Challenge Fund with a portion focused on raising American Indian graduation rates, and the Steele Reese Foundation has invested $20,000 to support rural community efforts. Each grantee will be awarded up to $10,000 to replicate successful dropout prevention strategies. Successful Challenge Fund grantees will be announced in March.

“Montana businesses and communities continue to respond to the call to lower the dropout rate and improve Montana’s economic future,” said Superintendent Juneau. “Every student we are able to keep from dropping out of school or who is inspired to continue their education after high school benefits not only that individual, but the entire state.”

In 2012, the Office of Public Instruction was awarded $450,000 over three years from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to support a statewide network of locally-designed, community-driven efforts to increase the number of Montana students who graduate from high school prepared for college and careers in the Montana workforce.

Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation stated, “Montana is rich with communities that care about the well-being of all youth. Graduation Matters Montana is seeing success because it is leveraging that local community commitment to youth and bringing research, passion and resources to the effort to graduate more students college- and career-ready. This approach is at the core of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation’s mission, and we are proud to be able to continue to support this critically important initiative.”

Support from the Washington Foundation has allowed the Office of Public Instruction to award 47 grants ranging from $3,600-$10,000 to Graduation Matters communities over the past two years. Successful Challenge Fund grantees will be announced in March.

“Since 2008 when we launched AT&T Aspire, AT&T has invested in programs like Graduation Matters that are making a significant impact on high school graduation rates.  Through the AT&T Aspire program we’ve committed $350 million of financial support across the U.S. – as well other resources, such as our technology and our people — to develop a focus on ‘what works’ to keep kids in school,” said Tara Thue, Director of External Affairs- AT&T Montana.  “It’s programs like these with proven success in Montana that make a difference for our community and workforce of the future.”

Currently, 33 communities are Graduation Matters communities, including all of Montana’s largest school districts. Seventy percent of Montana students attend a school with a Graduation Matters initiative. Since Juneau launched Graduation Matters Montana in 2010, Montana’s graduation rate has continued to climb, and the number of students dropping out of school continues to decline.

Current communities involved in a Graduation Matters Montana initiative:

Anaconda, Belgrade, Billings, Box Elder, Bozeman, Browning, Butte, Columbia Falls, Corvallis, Eureka, Frazer, Great Falls, Hamilton, Hardin, Havre, Heart Butte, Helena, Kalispell, Lame Deer, Laurel, Lewistown, Libby, Lincoln, Livingston, Miles City, Missoula, Polson, Pryor, St. Ignatius , Stevensville, Thompson Falls, Townsend and Wolf Point

More information about Graduation Matters Montana can be found at http://graduationmatters.mt.gov.

About the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation:

The major philanthropic organization for the Washington Companies and the Washington family, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington’s Foundation values mirror those of its Western heritage. The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation strives to better the human condition by supporting programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole.