SAN FRANCISCO, June 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Denver, CO Mayor Michael Hancock, Long Beach, CA Mayor Robert Garcia, and Grand Rapids, MI Mayor George Heartwell have been awarded first place honors in the U.S. Conference of Mayors/USA Funds 2015 National Education Pathways with a Purpose Awards Program during The U.S. Conference of Mayors' (USCM) 83rd Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
This is the first year in which cities have competed for the award, which is sponsored by the Conference of Mayors and USA Funds, a nonprofit corporation that promotes student success in college and careers. The award recognizes mayoral leadership in developing and implementing programs that provide education pathways to successful completion of postsecondary education programs and entry into the workplace.
This year's winning cities were selected by an independent panel of former mayors, educators and workforce development professionals.
"With the increasing skill demands of the 21st century workplace, mayors are particularly concerned that all students graduate from high school fully prepared for college and careers," said Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of the Conference of Mayors. "This partnership with USA Funds, focused on college and career readiness, highlights the ongoing and excellent work of these three mayors to ensure that America's students are provided high quality education and college completion goals."
"This partnership advances USA Funds' focus on what we call 'Completion with a Purpose' through partnerships at many levels, including the local community level, with mayors and other city leaders," said William D. Hansen, USA Funds president and CEO. "We are delighted to partner with the USCM to recognize these mayors for their outstanding work to improve student outcomes and strengthen communities."
FIRST PLACE PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS
DENVER, CO (Large City): Denver Postsecondary Success Initiative:
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has not only made quality education a major focus of his mayoral administration, but of his life and entire career in public service. He has demonstrated his longstanding commitment to education reform through his continued leadership and dedication to programs and initiatives that increase and support educational attainment for all Denver students. In 2013-2014 the Denver Public School (DPS) graduation rate was 61%, well below the 77% statewide rate – leaving over one-third of Denver students without the high school diploma needed to get many livable wage jobs -- and only 15% of DPS students graduate obtaining an on-time, college credential of any sort. The Denver Education Compact, created by Mayor Hancock within his first 100 days as Mayor, aims to increase the number of high school students who complete a postsecondary pathway and obtain a job with a living wage. By 2013-2014, Denver was awarded a $7 million Department of Labor Career Pathways grant to focus on career training and has also received nearly $1 million from nationally recognized organizations for three collective impact initiatives to improve educational attainment and career success. Mayor Hancock recognizes the opportunity to leverage the collective energy of these systems-level change initiatives in the early phases and is moving Denver toward a collective impact model for long-term aligned, collaborative, career-focused education.
"Mayor Hancock's passion for creating pathways to success goes back to when he was on council, so it's great to see the follow-through in the Mayor's office on delivering this promise," said judging panelist and former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. Fellow judge and former Director of the City of Baltimore's Office of Employment Development Karen Sitnick added, "Mayor Hancock has made education and college and career success priorities for his administration and the Denver Compact is an excellent vehicle for the Mayor to demonstrate his commitment. Denver's Compact focuses on bridging the communication and information gap between business and education."
LONG BEACH, CA (Medium City) Building Pathways through Innovation and Partnership:
In his role as Mayor, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia provides leadership in the development of learning pathways for the city's youth, students, and workers through numerous programs. Upon assuming office in 2014, Mayor Garcia set out to ensure that Long Beach's residents have access to educational and workforce development resources that will secure the economic vitality of the community. The Long Beach Promise, the basis for the city's pathways work, is an initiative that offers ways for Long Beach Unified School District students to prepare for, enter and complete college. The program was launched in 2008 as a partnership between three educational institutions – Long Beach City College, California State University Long Beach, and the Long Beach Unified School District. Under Mayor Garcia's guidance, Long Beach has become the fourth partner in the Promise – signaling a new, innovative expansion of the program that will align with Garcia's agenda of making preschool available citywide. In addition to the Promise, Mayor Garcia has championed the development of internship and career pathway activities through Linked Learning collaborations. The Mayor's new Internship Initiative (hirelb.org) is engaging the business community to provide meaningful work experience activities and leveraging local resources to extend the workforce investment board's labor exchange and career development activities for students. Mayor Garcia's leadership in the Promise, hireLB.org, and his work with Linked Learning, supports his agenda to strengthen career and educational pathways and secure greater investment from civic and business stakeholders to ensure students move along pathways and are connected to high-value occupations upon graduation.
"Mayor Garcia's leadership has shown Long Beach values the education of its citizens and make a clear connection to workforce development, recognizing the importance of beginning education from preschool through post secondary," said judging panelist and former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor. Fellow judge and former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory also said, "I was struck by the focus on preschool through access to college. Mayor Garcia clearly understands the cradle-to-career system and guarantees the success of youth in Long Beach."
GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Small City): Mayor's 100:
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell's Mayor's 100 program, which he began in 2010 as the Mayor's 50, is an innovative way to develop the city's talent and retain a diverse and educated workforce. The Mayor's 100 program calls on businesses and corporations to hire young people for a minimum of six months, offering them meaningful corporate and entrepreneurial work experience in office environments. Since the inception of the program, Mayor Heartwell has expanded the initiative – calling on more businesses to participate, specifically in the emerging fields of environmental sciences, technology, and engineering. Businesses have two employment options to offer: a 6-month 240-hour placement and/or a summer 150-hour placement geared for college students. The City matches 50% of the wages and provides an intensive 90-hour training to youth to ready them for employment. Mayor Heartwell has made ensuring all children and youth are ready for college, work and life a top priority of his administration. He has implemented a three-pronged approach that includes the Mayor's 100, a youth training program (L.E.A.D.) which teaches critical job skills and develops a civic engagement ethic, and a "To College Through College" initiative connecting K-12 and higher education to encourage college degree attainment. The result of this strategy is strong partnerships with education and business, active youth participation, and best-practice public-private programming.
"Mayor Heartwell has clearly used the power of the Mayor's office to launch an innovative program that will provide long term impact on graduation rates and community support," said judging panelist and former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor. Fellow judge and former President and CEO of JobWorks, currently Vice President of District 5 for Fort Wayne Community Schools Steve Corona said, "The Mayor's leadership clearly showcases the Grand in Grand Rapids."
About The United States Conference of Mayors -- The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/usmayors, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/usmayors.
About USA Funds -- USA Funds is a nonprofit corporation that supports Completion With a PurposeSM, building a more purposeful path for America's students to and through college and on to rewarding careers and successful lives. USA Funds pursues its nonprofit mission through philanthropic activities and partnerships, policy research, and programs and services that enhance preparation for, access to and success in higher education. Learn more at www.usafunds.org.
SOURCE The U.S. Conference of Mayors