American Graduate Day 2016

Air date: 09/17/2016


Hosted by Soledad O’Brien, AMERICAN GRADUATE DAY will broadcast and stream live as part of PBS’ SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION week

Media Event Features General and Mrs. Colin Powell, Soledad O’Brien, Rachel Platten, Shaquille O’Neal, Allison Williams, Elizabeth Banks, Juju Chang, Rehema Ellis, Susie Gharib, and more

August 23, 2016, New York, NY – Broadcast live from Tisch WNET Studios in NYC on public television stations across the country, and streaming on Facebook Live and, the 5th annual American Graduate Day on September 17, 2016 2-6PM ET (check local listings) will focus on mentorship as a solution to one of the nation’s biggest education challenges. Hosted by Soledad O’Brien, American Graduate Day will feature leading education, media and celebrity figures who will highlight the role of mentoring to help close the graduation gap, share inspirational stories from across the nation, and encourage others to connect with students as a mentor.

While the national high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, hitting more than 82 percent last year, the graduate rates for students of color, students with special needs, English Language Learners, and low-income students are still lower than those of the overall student population, according to the latest Building a Grad Nation Report.  A recent study commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, reported that mentoring has significant positive effects on two early warning indicators that a student may be falling off-track: absenteeism and behavior problems, suggesting that mentoring, along with other research-based interventions and reforms, is an effective tool in increasing graduation rates, especially among at-risk youth[i].

“The American Graduate initiative reflects public media’s long-term commitment of service to our communities, particularly the underserved,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “American Graduate’s success is built upon public media stations’ local partnerships that have illuminated the challenges and inspired citizens and organizations to work together to address them.”

Celebrity guests and more than 25 nonprofit organizations across the country will be featured as partners for American Graduate Day, with guests including Gen. and Mrs. Colin Powell, Shaquille O’Neal, Elizabeth Banks, Phillipa Soo, Allison Williams, and Rachel Platten, and organizations including My Brother’s Keeper, the Sparkle Effect, Sesame Street® and the Ad Council.

Lead partner, MENTOR, will help connect adults with students in need through their Mentoring Connector database which will be promoted on, by partner organizations and on air. Those who are interested in becoming a mentor and connecting with local organizations and youth can explore MENTOR’s Mentoring Connector database on

“Every student and child deserves a mentor who will fight for them every day to ensure they receive the education they deserve,” said Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist and host of American Graduate Day. “I’m proud to work with WNET to help highlight those individuals who are making a difference in their communities by helping students stay on track and graduate high school, but we still need more mentors to help guarantee all students reach their full potential. Through American Graduate Day, it’s our goal to spark a dialogue with public media – across all channels of storytelling – about the future of our youth and the critical role education plays.”

Featuring news segments, mini-documentaries, performances, and interviews, American Graduate Day 2016 is the culminating event of Spotlight Education Week– a special week of primetime education-themed programming on PBS beginning September 12, 2016. Following America Graduate Day, PBS NewsHour Weekend with Hari Sreenivasan will broadcast from Nine Network in St. Louis with a special focus on education issues related to American Graduate.  Viewers can join the conversation online at and on social media using the #AmGrad hashtag or by following American Graduate on Twitter and Facebook.


April Brown (PBS), Juju Chang (ABC); Rehema Ellis (NBC); Susie Gharib (Fortune); Bianna Golodryga (Yahoo); Michael Hill (NJTV); Soledad O’Brien (Hearst); Hakeem Oluseyi (Science Channel); Sheba Turk (WWL-TV); Cat Wise (PBS)


4-H, AARP Foundation Experience Corps, ACE Mentor Program of America, Ad Council, After-School All-Stars, America’s Promise Alliance, Best Buddies, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, City Year, Communities in Schools, Eye to Eye, Friends of the Children, Girl Scouts of the USA, Graham Windham, Horizons National, iMentor, Inline-to-Ice, Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, Junior Achievement, MENTOR, My Brother’s Keeper, NASA, P-Tech, Reading is Fundamental, Rotary Foundation, Sesame Street®, Step Up, Summer Search, The Sparkle Effect, VH1 Save the Music Foundation, YMCA of the USA


Shaquille O’Neal (Boys and Girls Clubs of America), General and Mrs. Colin Powell (America’s Promise Alliance); Elizabeth Banks (Step Up); Allison Williams (Horizons National); Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center); Mark Messier (Inline-to-Ice); Rachel Platten (VH1 Save the Music Foundation); Reshanda Gray (After-School All-Stars); Peggy Whitson (4-H/ NASA); Elmo and Alan Muraoka (Sesame Street®); Phillipa Soo (Graham Windham); Arne Duncan (Summer Search); Paula Zahn; Michael Massimino (Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum); Allan Houston (F.I.S.L.L.); Prince Royce (John Lennon Educational Tour Bus)

Twenty local public media stations will produce original Stories of Champions segments about caring adults who have made a difference in the lives of young people.  Nine of these local segments will air as part of the American Graduate Day 2016 broadcast.

American Graduate Day is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen – a public media initiative to help communities address the high school dropout crisis. Additional funding for American Graduate Day is from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Visit the American Graduate website for more details on participating PBS stations as well as other television and radio programs:

American Graduate Day 2016 is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET. Michael Kostel is executive producer.  Karen Ialacci is production manager. Chris Brande and Helen Maier are national segment producers.  Anna Campbell is Stories of Champions and segment producer. From the Education Department, Amanda Granger is project manager and Carole Wacey is vice president, education. Neal Shapiro is executive-in-charge.


About American Graduate

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help young people succeed in school and life.  Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), more than 100 public television and radio stations have joined forces with over 1,700 partners across 49 states to elevate the stories of youth and the supportive adults that help them succeed. Through American Graduate, public media, with its unique position as a trusted resource and important partner in local communities, provides a critical platform to shine a light on pathways to graduation and successful student outcomes. National and local reporting, both on air and online is helping communities understand the challenges and community-driven solutions associated with the dropout crisis. Public forums, town halls, and community conversations are activating discussions between community leaders, educators, and more.


SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION is a special week of primetime news, public affairs and documentary programming on PBS stations September 12-17 (check local listings) focusing on the brightest ideas and toughest challenges facing today’s students and America’s education system. Short-form and full episodes from the week, interactive content modules and a social hub for SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION will be available on and SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION also kicks-off of a year-long teacher support campaign—“Teach Boldly”—led by PBS and local member stations across the country. Major funding for SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a long-term public media initiative to help all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (KidsThirteen, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere:

About CPB

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @CPBmediaFacebook , and LinkedIn.

[i] The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring. (2014)