By Damian Bilbao, BP
Alaskans have always risen to a challenge and raised expectations of what we can accomplish. Without high expectations, efforts often fall short of the mark. Without the support of the community, goals remain unfulfilled. High expectations and community support can also enable our children to reach their full potential. That is why I support the 90% by 2020 community effort to improve high school graduation rates in Anchorage and why I am proud to be its co-chair.
90% by 2020 is a unique collaboration to improve high school graduation rates to 90% or above by 2020, and then continue to improve. We do that through a data driven effort to drive improvement in graduation rates. We are a partner, not a substitute for the Anchorage School District and support a common mission of providing our children with a strong foundation from which to successfully move into a next phase of their lives. To support this, 90% by 2020 coordinates community efforts to improve student performance at four points, 1) kindergarten readiness, 2) 3rd grade reading, 3) 8th grade math and 4) high school credit completion. Our data tells us that these four points have the strongest impact on high school graduation rates.
When people learn that I represent BP in 90% many are surprised that 90% includes not just many great non-profit and education organizations, but private industry as well. It is in BP’s interest to hire Alaskans. It is also in our own best interest to ensure we have a source of qualified talent for years to come. Next year Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline will celebrate their 40th anniversaries, and there are many years to come of oil production, and hopefully soon, gas sales. That can only happen if we have an educated work force. That is why BP has agreed to support the Back On Track component of 90%by2020 by donating $30,000. Back On Track is a partnership between United Way Of Anchorage, Covenant House Alaska and the Anchorage School District to provide credit completion options and wraparound services to 185 homeless and at risk youth to earn their high school diploma.
Alaska is my home. My wife and I have three children who attend public schools in Anchorage. We want them to be part of a generation of future Alaskans that is prepared to overcome challenges in the decades to come, some similar to those that this state has faced before and others that may be different and more complex. That is only possible if we all commit ourselves to doing two things: 1) Raise our own expectations of what we expect from ourselves and our children, and 2) Provide students with the tools required to fulfill those expectations, starting with an earned high school diploma. A young adult without a high school diploma will struggle to take a next step in their life, whatever that next step might be: a job, the armed services, trade school or college.
We must all raise our expectations of our community, our children and ourselves. Please consider what you can do to support our community by taking action. Tutor a fifth grader in math or reading. Donate to an organization that helps to prepare children for kindergarten (did you know that is one of the strongest indicators of high school graduation?). Visit bethechange907.org and find out how you can volunteer in the community, and connect with an organization that could use your help. Above all else, let’s raise our expectations of ourselves, our friends, our co-workers and be part of an effort to improve our community, our Alaska.