'26 Seconds' Campaign to Engage Youth at Risk of Dropping Out of School

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mrs. Alma Powell of America's Promise Alliance and LeBron James Join State Farm to Encourage Academic Success

Mar 25, 2011, 15:13 ET from State Farm(R)

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Every 26 seconds in America, a student drops out of high school. State Farm today announced the launch of a campaign to address this startling statistic and engage those who can most directly affect change – young people themselves. The campaign titled "26 Seconds," will use interests – like music, sports and video – to engage youth. It will provide an online venue for youth to express feelings on the issue and creatively share thoughts and talents – encouraging them and their peers to make graduation a priority so they become more than a statistic. The program's tagline "BMOR" underscores this call to action.

To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, please click: http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/26seconds/49098/

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110322/MM63381 )

Additionally, the State Farm Companies Foundation announced a scholarship program.  Twenty-six scholarships will go to students who are not traditionally eligible for many scholarship programs.  Students will be able to use the two-year scholarship totaling $5,000, to help fund two- or four-year college or university, technical, or vocational school attendance.  Scholarship program information and eligibility guidelines will soon be available exclusively via 26seconds.com to reach those actively engaged in the graduation conversation.  

The Building a Grad Nation Summit is being held March 21-23 in Washington, DC by America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. The Summit's focus on encouraging Americans to take action against the high school dropout crisis provided an opportune time for State Farm to announce this campaign.

For years, State Farm has provided funding and corporate resources to proactively work with leading educational organizations and local communities to address the dropout problem by creating viable, sustainable solutions.  The 26 Seconds campaign aggregates an active online community, guidance from proven leaders in the field, non-traditional scholarships, and State Farm employee and agent mentors to help motivate teens. The initiative will also feature NBA star LeBron James and others who will encourage and motivate students to join and lead conversations via 26seconds.com and facebook.com/26seconds.  

"Our country's future depends on a collective effort from all Americans to take action to inspire our young people to stay in school and strive for success," said Mrs. Alma Powell – Chair, America's Promise Alliance. "State Farm's longstanding commitment to education and youth and its partnership with America's Promise Alliance to help improve graduation rates and empower a generation of future leaders is something we can all be proud of.  Young people are essential to this work and this campaign helps give them a voice – something our entire nation will most certainly benefit from," said Powell.

The dropout epidemic is among the most significant challenges to our country's future. Through the 26 Seconds program, State Farm will work in concert with the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to help raise high school graduation rates, making neighborhoods across our country stronger.

"When 25 percent of our students – and almost 40 percent of our black and Hispanic students – fail to graduate high school on time, we know that too many of our schools are failing to offer their students a world-class education. That is morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable. I believe that improving our nation's graduation rate is absolutely essential to the future of our economy and the future of our nation," Duncan said.

"This announcement is the latest addition to State Farm's long history of supporting systemic changes in America's education system," said Edward B. Rust Jr., State Farm chairman and chief executive officer.  "We are excited to add the 26 Seconds campaign to our ongoing support of teachers, principals and schools across the country through organizations like America's Promise Alliance," said Rust.

Engaging Students Directly

The fundamental principle of 26 Seconds is directly engaging students to motivate and inspire them to set positive goals, and pursue those goals through education. State Farm will call upon its relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James to assist with this mission. The company and the superstar share a mutual interest in education and giving back to the community, especially for the benefit of youth. James will post motivational messages to students, encouraging them to continue working hard toward scholastic success. This supportive, online community will live at 26seconds.com, and facebook.com/26seconds.  

To help ensure an authentic, youthful perspective, 26 Seconds will also partner directly with youth. For the campaign launch, students from the High School for the Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul, Minn. wrote, performed and recorded the campaign's theme song, "Take Control."  HSRA students also helped create the logo, and their stories are featured on 26seconds.com. These teens will continue to create and share featured site content and serve as inspiration for other students. As the site develops, all teens will be able to interact and engage on a regular basis through surveys, contests, giveaways and special announcements.  Visit 26seconds.com for more information.

About State Farm®:

State Farm insures more cars and homes than any other insurer in the U.S., is the leading insurer of watercraft and is also a leading insurer in Canada. Our 17,800 agents and more than 66,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, fire, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 34 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit statefarm.com® or in Canada statefarm.ca®. 

About America's Promise Alliance:

America's Promise Alliance is the nation's largest partnership organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth by raising awareness, supporting communities, and engaging in nonpartisan advocacy. Through our Grad Nation campaign, we harness the collective power of our partner network to mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce.  Building on the legacy of our Founding Chairman General Colin Powell, the Alliance believes the success of our young people is grounded in the Five Promises -- caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; an effective education; and opportunities to help others.  For more information about America's Promise Alliance, visit www.americaspromise.org.

About State Farm Companies Foundation:

State Farm Companies Foundation was established in 1963 as an independent private foundation funded by the State Farm Mutual Company. The Foundation provides support for key initiatives and scholarships, as well as associate-directed programs, including grants supporting volunteerism and matching gifts, to two- and four-year colleges and universities.

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