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After-School Program Keeps 96 Percent of Participating Students on Track to Graduate in At-Risk Chicago Communities

United Way and Exelon partnership entering sixth year improves grades and attendance rates



CHICAGO (Oct. 26, 2009) - Students who participated in an innovative after-school program last year had a 96 percent graduation rate, well above the 54.3 percent average for Chicago Public Schools (CPS)*.  These results were reported in an annual report card issued last week for the Exelon-United Way Stay in School Initiative, which was created by Exelon and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.  The results were announced Oct. 24 at the Field Museum, where the program kicked off its sixth year.

The Stay in School program is focused on improving graduation rates and stemming truancy in three Chicago communities with some of the highest dropout and truancy rates in the city.  According to CPS statistics, dropout rates in the Austin, Bronzeville/Grand Boulevard and Humboldt Park/West Town communities are well above the CPS average. 

In addition to yielding higher graduation rates, the Stay in School program promotes higher grades, higher attendance rates and pro-social behaviors.  This year's report card findings reinforce that at-risk students can achieve academic success with the right mix of attention and activities.  The report card captures data from the 316 students who participated most intensively in Stay in School programs and services during the 2008-2009 school year.

  • 96 percent of Stay in School seniors graduated from high school or obtained a GED, compared to the CPS graduation rate of 54.3 percent, in 2008. 
  • 86 percent of Stay in School students were promoted to the next grade level.  In 2008, only 59 percent of CPS freshmen were on track for graduation.
  • 76 percent of Stay in School students had at least a 90 percent school attendance rate.  Attendance is a major challenge for schools in these communities, with schools experiencing average daily attendance rates as low as 68 percent. 
  • 74 percent of Stay in School students improved at least one grade in core courses, such as math, science and English.  Almost all students with a B average or better at the end of their freshman year graduate, compared to only a quarter of those with a D average. (Source: What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools 2007)
  • 71 percent of Stay in School students increased their pro-social behaviors, such as participation in out-of-school and leadership activities, involvement in the community and non-violent conflict resolution.

United Way and Exelon launched the Stay in School program in 2004 to serve students in 10 schools with enhanced after-school programs.  At that time, statistics showed the citywide dropout rate had reached critical levels, especially for young males of color/belonging to minority groups: 61 percent for African-American males and 49 percent for Latino males.  The Stay in School Initiative has served more than 7,500 students, ages 10-20, since its inception.  During this school year, another 2,000 students will participate.

The partnership has created a holistic menu of programming that includes tutoring, college readiness, life skills and violence-prevention workshops, parent and family activities and a reward-and-recognition program for achieving students.  Exelon also created a companion job skills development workshop series that provides up to eight paid internships each year.

"This program has forever transformed my sense of self-esteem and my commitment to academics," said Tierra Clark, a former Stay in School student from Fredick Douglass High School in Austin and now attending Northern Illinois University.  "Our mentors from Exelon help us understand what we need to do in order to be better prepared for our futures."

Since 2004, Exelon has contributed $1.7 million to fund the Exelon-United Way Stay in School.  Education is a signature focus of Exelon's corporate citizenship program.  The company and its 1,500 employee volunteers believe that educational achievement is the dividing line between economic isolation and opportunity.  Education is also a key focus of United Way, which provides the leadership and resources students need to grow into independent adults.

"These report card results indicate that we continue to make an impact in addressing the problem of student dropout rates in these communities," said Steve Solomon, director of corporate relations at Exelon.  "We look forward to constantly evolving this partnership and keeping it fresh so that we are delivering the services that are most needed to support the academic success of the students."

"The commitment from the volunteer mentors at Exelon has provided the Stay in School students with positive role models who stick with them over time," said CJ Jones, director of outreach and diversity for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. "This partnership is a prime example of corporate leadership reaching out to community experts for meaningful change."

For the full Stay in School Initiative report card, visit Exelon's Web site or United Way's web site at