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High School Dropout Crisis

CPT12 Combats the High School Dropout Crisis

The vast majority of students – 92 percent – say they expect to earn a high school diploma. But, for many of these students, the reality is much different.

Every year, more than 1.3 million students drop out of high school. That's 7,000 students a day.1

In Colorado, nearly 17,400 students (25.4%) didn't graduate from high school in 2009.2 Additionally, 24.2% of the students from the class of 2010 did not graduate or complete high school in four years. For students identified as "most at risk," that figure is 47.6%.3

For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) students, the drop out rates are nearly three times the national average. This startling figure is due to the fact that verbal and physical harassment at school compound the chances of dropping out. Up to 28% of gay students stop attending classes regularly, many drop out, run away or are kicked out of their homes – and in too many cases, attempt suicide.4

The impact of the high school dropout crisis affects the entire community, impacting our economy, healthcare costs, and workforce. It is a problem that must be solved, and CPT12 is joining a collaborative, community-wide effort to address the crisis and to help students stay on the path to graduation.

1 America's Promise Alliance, "Grad Nation."   2 Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009  3 Colorado Department of Education, 2011  4 Lambda Legal

Find Community Resources

CPT12 encourages those at risk to call 2-1-1 for referrals to resources that can help them.

Listen to audio stories from public radio stations around the U.S that are participating in American Graduate.

Related Media & Information

CPT12 suggests the following resources for GLBTQ youth, families, volunteers and potential mentors who need help, or want to get involved in being a part of the solution toward real, lasting, measurable change in the dropout rate in Colorado.


For the first time, America is on track to reach the goal of a 90% graduation rate by the year 2020. The new "Building a Grad Nation" report released today reveals that graduation rates increased from 71.7% in 2001 to 78.2% in 2010. This growth was driven in large part by significant gains in African American and Hispanic rates, and in the South. Over 1 million fewer high school students attended a dropout factory in 2011 than in 2002.

The report highlights American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen as a key initiative and community-based partnership that is making significant progress in addressing the dropout crisis. Read the full report and learn more about the efforts American Graduate stations are making across the US and in your community. Together, we are making it happen. Read the report to see where Colorado lands.


In phase 2 of “American Graduate,” CPT12 has widened its focus to include the participation of at-risk students in a “youth voices” digital storytelling workshop that provided an intense skills learning experience for the participants, and instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment through their creation of video stories that CPT12 and other stations will broadcast. Phase 2 also included a youth town hall meeting during which young people led a discussion with educators, parents, non-profit participants and civic leaders on the state of education from their perspectives.

Thank you to our non-profit partners, Colorado Youth for a Change, GOAL Academy, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), Futures Academy and the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) for your help and guidance on this project.


Public Media launched the first-ever AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY on September 22, 2012. The multi-platform event featured local and national programming, partners, and celebrities focused on improving high school graduation rates in America.

Take a look at the 7-hour AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY marthon (divided into hour-long videos).

VIDEO: Drop In Denver
More than 2,000 youth dropped out of Denver Public Schools last year. In this short video, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock introduces a new web-based initiative, DROP IN DENVER, that aims to significantly reduce this statistic for the 2012-2013 academic year by connecting youth with resources to re-enroll.

VIDEO: American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, A CPT12 Special Presentation
In this special, co-hosts Tamara Banks from CPT12 and Nathan Heffel from KUVO lead a discussion about the high school dropout crisis, including creative solutions and community resources. Panelists include Rep. Jared Polis, Steve Dobo from Colorado Youth for a Change, and Robert Ham from Urban Peak.

Correction: As noted in our Spotlight program, the unemployment rate for high school dropouts is actually 44% higher than for high school graduates, not 15% as reported in the program. In addition, high school dropouts are currently more than three times more likely to be unemployed than individuals with a college degree (4.4% unemployment rate). Read more...

The program aired Wednesday, November 16, 2011. Watch online now.

American Graduate Special

VIDEO: Everyone Deserves a Diploma
This short video explains the essential role that allies can play in making sure all LGBT youth feel safe, secure and nurtured at school and at home. The speaker is Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, speaking at the Gill Foundation’s biannual OutGiving Conference.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Bullying
This CPT12 video features Cory Barrett, Director of Youth Services at The Center’s Rainbow Alley, as he discusses the effects of harassment and bullying on LGBTQ youth including isolation and leaving school altogether.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Gay / Straight Alliance
Gay / Straight Alliances (GSAs) are a practical and effective way to bridge understanding between LGBTQ and straight people in schools. This CPT12 video features Cory Barrett, Director of Youth Services at The Center’s Rainbow Alley, as he talks about the benefits of GSAs in schools.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Risky Behavior
This CPT12 video features Cory Barrett, Director of Youth Services at The Center’s Rainbow Alley, as he looks at the risky behaviors that young people engage in when they are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. From drug and alcohol use to risky sexual practices, LGBTQ youth are highly likely to take chances that put them in danger.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Racism
While attitudes are slowly changing, LGBTQ kids of color are especially prone to bullying, harassment and familial rejection because of their sexual orientation. This CPT12 video features Cory Barrett, Director of Youth Services at The Center’s Rainbow Alley, as he discusses his own experiences as a person of color who also identifies as gay.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Vulnerability
This CPT12 video features Steve Dobo, Founder and CEO of Colorado Youth for a Change, as he talks about the academic risks for LGBTQ youth when they experience harassment and bullying.

VIDEO: American Graduate PSA: Homelessness and Dropping Out
This short CPT12 video looks at how homeless youth, espcially those who identify as GLBTQ, face a greater risk of dropping out of school. The video features Haley Todd, GED Coordinator at Urban Peak.

AUDIO SERIES: The American Graduate
KUVO's 4-part series, THE AMERICAN GRADUATE airs on Wednesdays in November at 7:40am. KUVO broadcasts on 89.3 FM in Denver, 89.7 in Breckenridge, and in Vail over KVJZ at 88.5.
  • Part One: Laying the Groundwork (KUVO air date: 11/2/11) Listen here.
    Those who receive a high school diploma receive, on average, an additional $10,000 a year. This is an American tragedy. But it is a tragedy we can correct.
  • Part Two: The Case for Charter Schools (KUVO air date: 11/9/11) Listen here.
    Two Denver Charter schools are highlighted: Colorado High School Charter and the ACE Community Challenge School. Both schools work with at-risk students from Denver Public Schools and guide them as they strive to improve their grades and their lives outside of school.
  • Part Three: Native American Dropouts (KUVO air date: 11/16/11) Listen here.
    This segment looks at some of the issues and emerging solutions specific to high school dropouts among Colorado's Native American community.
  • Part Four: Solutions and Programs (KUVO air date: 11/23/11) Listen here.
    The final segment examines a few of the many innovative programs and classes focused on at-risk students in Colorado.

REPORT: 100 Best Communities for Young People
Each year, America’s Promise Alliance produces a list of the “100 Best Communities for Young People.” The list for 2011 was recently released, and three Colorado communities were recognized:  Aurora, Brighton and Montrose County. Read the full report.

REPORT: 25 of the Best Communities for Young Latinos
Another organization looked at the communities from the America’s Promise list and focused on those with a large percentage of Hispanic / Latino youth. Aurora, Brighton and Montrose County all made this focused list of “25 of the Best Communities for Young Latinos.” Take a look.

VIDEO: It Gets Better
Many LGBT youth can't picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can't imagine a future for themselves. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better. Take a look at a video featured on their site:

SCHOOL RESOURCE GUIDE: Bullying and Harassment Prevention and Education
A resource-rich document from the Colorado School Safety Resource Center and the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Take a look.

PRESS RELEASE: New Groundbreaking Study
This press release about the Family Acceptance Project describes a groundbreaking study that describes how family acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents helps protect against depression, substance abuse and suicidal behavior in early adulthood.

FACT SHEET: Dropout and Graduation Rates in Colorado
A two-page fact sheet from the Colorado Department of Education.

VIDEO: Too Important to Fail
In this TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS video, Tavis goes behind the statistics to get to the heart of the matter: the struggle so many African American teenage males face when trying to stay in school and succeed. Watch online now. Also, be sure to check out the program website for additional resources.


CPT12 is part of a nationwide effort by public television and radio stations, addressing local community interests and activities around high school graduation rates. The project is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the National Center for Media Engagement.

The lost lifetime earnings in Colorado for one class of dropouts is $4.5 billion. Evidence points to big returns when we invest in K-12 education.

Dropout Crisis Partners

Colorado Public Television’s LGBTQ Dropout Awareness Initiative is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative
made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The station is working with a number of partners who will help us raise awareness of the dropout crisis in our community, and encourage those at risk to call 2-1-1 for referrals to resources that can help them.


Get Involved

For information about how you can become involved with the CPT12 American Graduate Project, please contact CPT12 Marketing Director Pam Osborne.

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