From the start, WNET New York Public Media has embraced the American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen initiative, a long-term public media commitment by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis.
Every year, WNET in partnership with CPB produces American Graduate Day, a day-long, live broadcast from the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City. This call-to-action campaign features 50 local and national community partners and countless individuals working to keep kids on the path to graduation. The segments feature representatives of the organization, site directors, students, and celebrities who work with the group. Throughout the day, videos and interviews showcase how these organizations and individuals provide support, advice, and prevention and intervention services to at-risk students, families, and schools.
American Graduate Day 2015 was one of the largest collaborative broadcasts in the public television history. Hosted by Soledad O'Brien on October 3, 2015, this live, seven-hour national broadcast celebrated individuals and non-profit organizations dedicated to helping youth stay on track to high school graduation. More than 50 public television stations across the country contributed original content to the program.
Special guests included First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush, General Colin Powell, Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Derulo, Allison Williams, Elmo, Billy Bob Thornton, Dolly Parton, and many more. The broadcast reached 86% of the country, with viewers watching an average of 33 minutes. Of all viewers, 56% were women, and 22% were African American - approximately 75% higher than their representation in the population.
Host Soledad O'Brien was joined by 15 additional hosts including Juju Chang, Jane Pauley, Rehema Ellis, Rebecca Jarvis and Hari Sreenivasan. Throughout the day, American Graduate Day presented interviews with advocates like General Colin Powell, a tearful reunion segment with Big Brothers Big Sisters, heartfelt testimonials from celebrities and luminaries, live performances by students with Paul Shaffer, moving mini-documentaries and compelling Stories of Champions. Viewers were encouraged to go online and take a simple step to become a Champion themselves, like mentoring a student or donating school supplies.
Divided into seven hour-long content strands, topics included: Early Education, Caring Consistent Adults, More and Better Learning, Special Needs Communities, Dropout Prevention and Re-Engagement, and College and Career Readiness. Each hour featured compelling live and taped interviews, live remote panels across the nation, mini-documentaries and celebrity testimonials.
In the weeks leading up to the broadcast, special events were held nationwide, including ringing the NASDAQ closing bell, lighting the Empire State Building with indie rock band Echosmith, and a special live discussion at The Atlantic with Jim Shelton, former Deputy Secretary of Education. National media coverage included: a PEOPLE.com feature on Shaquille O’Neal, a CNN.com op-ed by Soledad O'Brien, and a feature in Education Week, among others.
In addition to bringing together national station and organization partners during American Graduate Day, WNET also directly addresses ongoing educational issues of New York and New Jersey throughout the year - producing and broadcasting on-air segments highlighting local efforts to reach at-risk youth, organizing local town halls to facilitate meaningful discussion between community members, and participating in local educational conferences to connect directly with our tri-state area audience of educators, parents, communities, and the youth they serve.
Contact Us to learn more about WNET Education's American Graduate work.