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WTTW11's American Graduate Day

WTTW11's American Graduate Day kicks off week of cross-platform special programming to raise awareness of Chicago and the nation’s high school dropout crisis, part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen a CPB national stay-in-school initiative

For immediate release
Chicago, IL - October 21, 2012

WTTW11, Chicago's premier public television station, will broadcast a seven hour American Graduate Day special program this Saturday, September 22, kicking off a week of public media content centered on the nation's critical high school dropout crisis. The telethon-like broadcast originates in New York City and spotlights organizations working to support at-risk youth and encourage graduation. Each half-hour, WTTW will feature local non-profit partners participating in its American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen initiative. WTTW is one of almost 20 public media stations (PBS & NPR) nationwide participating in the effort, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In addition to Saturday's all-day broadcast (12 noon-1:00 pm on WTTW11 and 1:00-7:00 pm on WTTW Prime) American Graduate Week will include reports on both PBS NewsHour and Chicago Tonight, and the Frontline documentary Dropout Nation, airing Tuesday, September 25 at 9:00 pm.

Despite sustained efforts, approximately one million students nationwide drop out of school each year, costing billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, higher social costs, and wasted human potential. Almost 40% of all Chicago Public Schools fail to graduate, nearly unchanged from a decade ago. Over the last ten years, 31,000 dropouts re-enrolled in alternative schools, but only 23% of them ultimately graduated.

"Since launching American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen last year, WTTW has used its on-air and online platforms extensively to amplify the need for viewers to become invested in trying to solve this crisis that is devastating our nation and our region," said WTTW's President & CEO Dan Schmidt. "By spotlighting the problem and convening and helping to align the efforts of other non-profit partners, we hope to build on public media's trust in our community, and have a collective --and positive-- impact."

As part of its American Graduate initiative, WTTW has developed a robust web site at, where users can find information about the dropout crisis in Chicago and local resources available. It also features content WTTW has created around the initiative including Chicago Tonight reports, essays on graduation from the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, views of teachers on a "Teacher Wall," and PSAs created by students of Free Spirit Media.

American Graduate Week

American Graduate Day
Saturday, September 22

An unprecedented full-day public media broadcast and outreach event dedicated to engaging our country around the dropout crisis. The seven-hour program, airing from 12:00 noon CST until 7:00 pm, will feature special celebrity hosts such as Stone Phillips, Maria Bartiromo, Bryant Gumbeland Maria Hinojosa, relevant spokespeople and compelling stories from teens themselves. Over 20 national organizations that support and mentor youth will be featured. Viewers will be encouraged to become an "American Graduate Champion" by offer their time, donating resources, connecting with organizations on social media or learning more about the crisis. Each half-hour will be broadcast LIVE from The Tisch WNET Studios in Lincoln Center in New York and will feature a national organization working to keep kids on track and in schools.

National organization featured are: After School All Stars, America SCORES, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, CFY, City Year, Communities In Schools, Girls Inc., Harlem RBI, Horizons National, Jumpstart, Little Kids Rock, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Reel Works, United Way, YouthBuild and the YMCA. Individuals will be encouraged to call 1-800-313-2477 or visit to learn how get involved in their community with these organizations.

WTTW Local Inserts: These locally produced segments feature videos of Chicago teachers sharing their thoughts on graduation, community writers telling their stories about dropouts, and several "Making It Happen" moments where local non-profit organizations have the opportunity to share and encourage the community to get involved. Local organizations featured are After School Matters, America SCORES Chicago, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, The Chicago Urban League, Free Spirit Media, Tutor/Mentor Connection, andYouth Connection Charter Schools; which represent just a few of WTTW's American Graduate Community Partnership. Locally, viewers can visit to find links to Chicago area organizations who need their help to keep teens on a path towards high school graduation.

WTTW will broadcast the first hour, from 12:00 noon until 1:00 pm, on its main 11.1 channel, with the entire program airing live on its WTTW Prime channel (11.2/Comcast 370/RCN 37). Other special programming for the week will include:

PBS NewsHour
The week of September 24-28, 6:00-7:00 pm

The PBS NewsHour team will devote three segments – two field packages and one discussion -- to the dropout crisis.

Chicago Tonight
Monday, September 24, 7:00 pm

As part of Chicago Tonight's ongoing coverage of the Chicago dropout crisis, journalist Eddie Arruza speaks with a young man about his reasons for leaving high school.

Frontline: Dropout Nation
Tuesday, September 25, 9:00-11:00 pm

Frontline will provide a historical context to the debate over zero-tolerance policies, tracing their evolution from the 1990's, when harsh suspension and expulsion policies became the norm. At the same time, the documentary will also follow a group of high school students at risk of dropping out, chronicling their school experiences and culminating with the question of whether they will graduate in 2012.

Frontline Live Chat
Wednesday, September 26, 1:00-3:00 pm

As a follow-up to the previous evening's Frontline broadcast, the filmmakers and others will conduct a two-hour live online chat on the Frontline website.

Frontline: Social Screening (through ITVS)
Sunday, September 30, time TBD

A screening of the complete documentary with real-time written comments by the documentarians and viewer questions answered.

About American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen

American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help local communities across the country address the dropout crisis. CPB, in partnership with America's Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is working with public media stations in 20 "Hub Markets" where the dropout crisis is most acute to raise awareness of the issue and coordinate action with community partners – all with the goal of helping students stay on course to graduate from high school. Nearly 60 public media organizations across the country are currently involved. For more, visit

About WTTW

For more than 55 years, audiences have turned to WTTW for distinctive programming that informs, inspires, educates, and entertains. WTTW reaches 1.5 million weekly households over a four-state area, making it the most-watched public television station in America. Recognized for its award-winning local and national productions, WTTW is committed to presenting the very best in cultural, nature, science, public affairs, and children's programming across its four distinct television channels: WTTW11, WTTW Prime, its Spanish-language channel WTTW V-me, and WTTW Create, its "how-to" channel. For more information, please visit