I WILL GRADUATE, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit working to fill educational gaps by providing career guidance, mentorship, and art education, donated their “Get Focused, Stay Focused” curriculum to every public school in the city this school year, hoping to boost students after a challenging few years in the city’s school system.
“Over the years we wanted to make sure our youth had more of a foundational education so they would want to graduate,” said IWG founder Tonya Lewis Taylor. “So I think it’s important for young people to develop the skills they need to stay focused and motivated.”
Boosting lagging learning
The six-week curriculum teaches young people about time management, smart decision-making, setting clear goals, mental health care, and more. More than 300 middle and high schools citywide use IWG’s curriculum to boost academic achievement, Lewis Taylor said.
I WILL GRADUATE trains teachers and principals how to properly implement the studies and improve student’s focus. The team feels their work is even more crucial now as students had to adjust to remote or hybrid learning during the pandemic.
High school graduation rates decreased in at least 20 states in the first school year after COVID-19 despite many schools lowering graduation requirements, Chalkbeat reported earlier this year. Though the number of high school graduates in New York City increased during the pandemic, the number of students using test exemptions in order to graduate rose dramatically, according to the New York Post — 70% of 2020 graduates graduated without taking the state-mandated Regents Exams, up from 10% in 2020. Some worry the waived requirements mean students will not be properly prepared for college and life after school.
Schools are also struggling with city budget cuts, which have left them with fewer teachers and less programming than they’ve had in past years.
“Our mission is all about serving our school partners,” said Sanchez Tuitt, president of IWG.
Gearing up for I Will Graduate Day
The donation comes ahead of I Will Graduate Day, the charity’s biggest annual event, focusing on empowering young students to feel confident at school and celebrating the importance of learning. This year’s main event will kick off on October 24 at Barclays Center. It will be the 14th annual IWG Day, and the first the organization has hosted since 2020.
According to Tuitt, organizers have invited over 13,000 learners to the event, where they can hear from over 50 college and career vendors and STEM programs and see a main-stage event with a surprise guest celebrity.
On October 3, IWG will also be releasing a documentary on CBS that showcases their day-to-day work, including the struggles and adversity that come with working to improve learning structures. It will also look into the many programs they hold within their partnering school such as dance, film, journalism and tech initiatives.