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Anyone Can Help a Student Graduate, PBS Program Aims to Prove

While high school graduation rates are at an all-time high in the United States, roughly 19 percent of high school students still fail to graduate in four years.

To help encourage more students to stay in school and work toward a diploma, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its many PBS stations are offering up the fourth annual American Graduate Day, a day of programming aimed at highlighting the work of people trying to improve graduation rates and education more generally.

The effort is being led by New York City station WNET, and THIRTEEN Productions.

"Obviously we want to have everyone stay in school and see the graduation rate go up," said Neal Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of WNET, in an interview with Education Week. "But part of what we want to do in public television, and can do, is get the communities involved. Our goal is to inspire people, to show them stories that engage them emotionally."

In a seven-hour block on Saturday, Oct. 3, WNET and 130 local PBS affiliates will air education programming and stories of school "champions" who have worked to improve graduation rates, including messages from politicians (First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush, etc.) and celebrities (Jason Derulo, Dolly Parton, etc.).

While none of the champions this year are students, there are a number of educators with inspiring back stories. One of them is from Bertine Bahige, a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who found his way to the United States and, eventually, teaching:

To go with the programming block, the producers also put out a list of seven simple steps that community members can take to help improve graduation rates.

Carole Wacey, vice president of education at WNET, said that while the highlighted champions are from all walks of life, there are easy ways for people to get involved.

"Anyone can get out and read a book to a child," Wacey said.

The broadcast airs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

More on graduation rates and dropouts:

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