Talent Dividend Work

A promise to improve educational attainment for low-income students

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Raleigh's college attainment rate is high compared to the national average -- around 43 percent, compared to a national average of around 38 percent. The presence of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle (anchored by North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) attracts lots of college graduates. Businesses rarely complain about finding the talent they need. 
But when you take a closer look at the numbers, Raleigh's challenges are apparent. 
"When you look at the low-income population in Raleigh … that's where you see the disparity," says Jose Picart, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, North Carolina State University. "There's an outward perception of this area as being very educationally rich. We rank in the top five among cities in the U.S. in terms of how many people in this area have a college degree. But there's this other world of low-income population that is not participating in that prosperity."
Leaders in Raleigh have taken a collective impact approach to bridging that gap with The Raleigh Promise, which brings together six colleges and universities in Raleigh as well as the City of Raleigh, Wake County Public Schools, Wake County Human Services, businesses, non-profits, and community and faith-based organizations, and. Picart calls it "the collaborative." 
"The idea is that the collaborative could create long-term, sustainable, systemic change in the education pipeline," Picart says. "The goal is to increase the number of low-income youth that make it through that pipeline and earn a post-secondary credential." 
Three signature programs are led by key stakeholders in the community. The Raleigh Future Scholars program, led by the public schools, identifies promising high school students and helps prepare them for college. The Raleigh Fellows program, led by Raleigh's six colleges, helps current college students persist and complete their degree. And the Raleigh College Center (hopefully Centers, in the near future), an information and workshop center located in a community center, is led by Parks and Recreation. 
The grassroots work has been long and hard, but Picart says it has already made an impact. Local colleges, community colleges, and universities are sharing data with each other and with the community for the first time. Even the Wake County Health System is involved, providing data on family well-being related to educational attainment. And the relationships that are emerging will be powerful for creating systemic change in the long run. 
"For the first year and a half we met almost weekly to make these things happen, to submit grants and raise funds and get these programs up and running," Picart says. "This is working in large part because of people who roll their sleeves up and get involved in the work."

Source: Jose Picart, North Carolina State University
Writer: Amy Elliott Bragg
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