CPB’s Public Media Initiative, American Graduate: Getting to Work, Is Addressing Workforce Development Needs in Local Communities

March 13, 2020

APTS Summit

With the high school graduation rate reaching a record 84.6% and black students graduating at rates on par with white students for the first time in 40 years, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting celebrated the success of public media’s American Graduate initiative at the APTS Public Media Summit, a gathering of  hundreds of public television station leaders held recently in Washington, D.C.

“Through public media’s national and local content and coverage, award-winning documentaries, fact-based reporting, public forums and town halls, the American Graduate initiative drives awareness and dialogue,” said Pat Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “This amazing collaboration was a game-changer for public media: Thousands of new partnerships, a new model of working with communities, a meaningful increase in awareness of the issues, coupled with a path toward solutions, strengthened stations’ role in their communities.”

At the APTS Summit, CPB announced they were honoring Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi as an American Graduate Champion for his commitment to expanding educational pathways for young people and for his appreciation of public media’s role in engaging communities and providing universal access to high-quality educational content. Krishnamoorthi, inspired by American Graduate, is introducing bipartisan legislation that will create a grant program at the U.S. Department of Education to support the development and distribution of educational media designed to prepare young people for a 21st-century American workforce. Content would highlight educational and training pathways to high-demand, skilled careers.

American Graduate Champion Award
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, center, who was honored at the APTS Public Media Summit, receives the American Graduate Champion Award. From left, Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO, Window to the World Communications, parent company of WTTW and WFMT; Pat Harrison, CPB president and CEO; and Ambassador Robert Mandell, Elizabeth Sembler and Ruby Calvert, members of the CPB Board.   

As public media’s largest and longest-running CPB-funded collaboration, American Graduate launched nine years ago when more than 1 million young people were failing to graduate from high school each year. Since then, public media stations have collaborated with more than 1,700 local and national organizations to share what was happening in their communities, to connect young people with needed resources and to spotlight American Graduate Champions – those caring and consistent adults who are often the difference on whether someone walks across the graduation stage. Since 2018, the initiative has focused on the talent needs for the future workforce and the training pathways to high-skill careers.

Amy Shaw, president and CEO of the Nine Network in St. Louis, the national producing station for American Graduate, praised public media for bringing together diverse partners in business, civic, non-profit and education – to work together in new ways. “We bring something vital to the table – our trust, our deep community roots, our educational depth, our editorial integrity, our ability to give voice to issues in our community, at scale, on air, online, in the community. And only public media can do that.”

Kevin Martin, president and CEO of ideastream in Cleveland, said American Graduate opened the door for the station to connect with tween and teen audiences and also to collaborate with WOSU-Columbus and WCET-Cincinnati on a statewide forum, “Talking Jobs With Ohio’s Next Governor,” and a documentary, “The Career Path Less Taken,” an expansive view of vocational education.


Martin introduced Keihen Kitchen, who shared her story of overcoming adversity – poverty, her single mother’s cancer diagnosis and her own health issues -- at ideastream’s Dropout Prevention Day in 2015. Kitchen was featured in a national American Graduate Day segment and participated in the “Talking Jobs” forum.

“When the American Graduate initiative and Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives us a voice… it’s so impactful to realize that people are listening,” said Kitchen, who has an Associate degree and well-paying job as a transmission system operator at FirstEnergy. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public media are listening to the problem, they’re listening to the job market, they’re listening to the employers, they’re listening to what we need in the job market, as well as what our students need, what their problems are and what they’re going through.”

Kitchen praised public media for inspiring her. “It’s not just about me sharing my story or another student sharing their story,” she said. “It’s about listening to the stories of real people and real students with real problems that can be related to and then shared, enjoyed and repeated.”

Top photo: Keihen Kitchen, second from left, spoke at the APTS Public Media Summit about how public media’s American Graduate initiative inspired her and allowed her to share her story of overcoming adversity. She was joined by chief executives Kevin Martin, ideastream, left; Pat Harrison, CPB; and Amy Shaw, Nine Network.     

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