Valley leaders join campaign to raise graduation rates

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- With a hope to improve high school graduation rates in the Valley, hundreds of people gathered at the first GradNation Community Summit in Fresno.

"I believe a lot of it has to do with being disconnected, not seeing that purpose at the end of that career. High school careers should be the baseline. It should be 100 percent of our kids that graduate from high school," said Jim Yovino, Fresno County Schools Superintendent. Yovino is passionate about bringing hope and careers to young people.

The Fresno County graduation rate has improved to nearly 80-percent. But leaders said that more work needs to be done and that starts when a child is born. "Research has proven more than 90-percent of the brain develops in the first five years of life. So yes, the emphasis to focus on the first five years to ensure they're ready for kindergarten is guaranteeing them ultimate success," explained Emilia Reyes of First 5 Fresno County Executive Director.

The summit was led by America's Promise Alliance and sponsored by AT&T. The event featured several local speakers including Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who spoke about the importance of creating safe places for kids. The department is also getting a helping hand from Reading Heart. The non-profit is donating 1,000 books to officers to hand out in the community. "I think books can make kids happy and use their imagination. It also helps them learn and you also learn a lesson at the end of the book," said Danay Ferguson.

Organizers said each group plays a vital role in changing statistics and together they can help ultimately change the lives of our children. "That high school diploma opens up many doors for opportunities for them," said Yovino

The GradNation campaign hopes to raise graduation rates across the country to 90-percent by year 2020. Something leaders here hope to do with the community's support.
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