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Metro Detroit students get $27 million boost

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Metro Detroit students get $27 million boost

GM Foundation gives to United Way to improve performance

Christina Rogers and Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News

Detroit — The General Motors Foundation will donate more than $27 million to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, to get young children kindergarten-ready and improve graduation rates at five Metro Detroit schools struggling with high dropout rates.

The donation is the largest in the foundation's 34-year history and is intended to increase to above 80 percent the graduation rates at schools that currently are graduating 60 percent of students or lower.

"The goal is audacious," said Michael J. Brennan, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

"We want to transform southeast Michigan into the home of one the top five most skilled and educated work forces in the nation."

Twenty-two Metro Detroit high schools qualify for the initiative, but they must apply for the money.

Applications from them, and from early childhood development programs, are due next month; the foundation and the United Way will choose the winners.

Five high schools will share $5 million a year for five years; five early childhood learning programs will share $425,000 over that period.

Up to 20 academies will be created from within the five chosen high schools — four in each, with each centering on a theme, such as math or science.

"Clearly, we need to be better" at graduating students and rebuilding the area's skilled work force, said GM's American president and foundation board member Mark Reuss, who announced the contribution during a press conference at Detroit's Cody High School.

"We need to be the best. Vehicles like the (Chevy extended-range plug-in) Volt will never happen again if we don't take care of this."

The GM Foundation also recently announced a $2 million donation to help upgrade two community centers near its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant.

"We talk a lot these days about doing the right thing," Reuss said. "It has to be more than talk. It has to be tangible, and it has to be done with the right partners to get results."

Cody High School teacher Michelle Shorter attended Friday's news conference. She was ecstatic over the foundation's donation.

"I just felt grateful and excited," said Shorter. "General Motors stepped up to the plate and is giving up a hand. That's awesome."

Shorter, an economics and civics teacher for Cody's Medicine and Community Health program, said she is happy the foundation targeted the money for efforts to help stem the high rate of dropouts by students in some of the region's high schools. She said attracting, retaining and graduating students are part of the goal of lowering the dropout rate.

Steven Wasko, a spokesman for Detroit Public Schools, said the district is trying to give students more one-on-one attention in the classroom.

"The small schools concept at Cody and Osborn has been a positive step to helping create smaller, themed schools built around students' interests that also include strong partnerships with outside agencies," Wasko said in a statement.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101211/AUTO01/12110347/Metro-Detroit-students-get-$27-million-boost#ixzz180DAHd41

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