Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation Join Forces to Tackle Teen Graduation Crisis

Actor/Producer Mark Wahlberg to Appear in Campaign to Promote Teen Graduation and The Spot Encourages Customer Support of Taco Bell's "Graduate To Go" June Fundraiser

Jun 07, 2010, 09:00 ET from The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens

IRVINE, Calif., June 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation announced a two-year partnership to address America's teen graduation crisis, where one in three students drops out of high school without receiving a diploma. Actor/Producer Mark Wahlberg will appear in a June national campaign to raise awareness and encourage support.  

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From June 3-15, participating Taco Bell® restaurants nationwide will invite customers to give $1 to support the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' "Graduate to Go" initiative. Money raised will provide local grants to organizations with a track record of empowering teens, like the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  For their support, customers will receive a free taco coupon.

"Through my foundation and great organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of America, I have witnessed incredible success stories where youth programs play life-saving roles keeping at-risk teens on track," said Mark Wahlberg. "I'm proud to team up with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and its Graduate to Go initiative to help more young people earn their diplomas and realize their dreams."

Graduate To Go is a long-term effort to raise awareness of the high-school dropout crisis and encourage teens to get their diploma. The initiative funds real-world experiences, such as job training and college preparation, proven to motivate teens to stay in school.

"Our new partnership with Mark Wahlberg and his foundation is a natural fit given our shared commitment to help teens graduate to a better life," said Bob Fulmer, Executive Director of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens. "Our goal through the Graduate to Go initiative is to reach 100,000 teens annually through real-world experiences and help cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2018."  

The television spot takes place in a high school where Wahlberg interacts with students in a classroom, by the lockers and in a gym, reinforcing the importance of being involved.   Entitled "The Power of One," the spot was directed by acclaimed film director David O Russell, who has worked with Wahlberg on four movies including the upcoming feature film The Fighter to be released later this year.  Wahlberg delivers startling statistics about teen dropout rates and provides a compelling message about how one person can make a difference in a teen's life. The spot urges viewers to support the graduation initiative through the Taco Bell fundraiser. In addition to the national TV and online spot, there also are radio spots and poster displays in participating Taco Bell® restaurants nationwide.  

Studies have shown that a high school diploma is the single most important factor to a teen's future and those who drop out of school before graduation earn $9,200 less per year than those who do graduate from high school. Young people who graduate from college earn on average $1 million more during their lifetime than those who do not attend college.(1)

"Reducing the dropout rate makes sense for individual students, but it also makes strong economic sense for the nation," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "For example, cutting the dropout rate in half in the nation's fifty largest cities each year would result in $4.1 billion in additional earnings, 30,000 additional jobs, and $5.3 billion in economic growth. That's an economic stimulus package that everyone should be able to get behind."

In addition to the annual national fundraiser and local grant giving, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens will look to partner with other like-minded groups and corporations to provide real experiences such as job training and college preparation for teens to stay engaged in school and prepare for their future.

Since 1995, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and its supporting programs have helped more than 500,000 teens stay in school and on the path to graduation through its national partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and affiliation with other non-profit organizations. The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens is the largest teen program donor to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, giving more than $28 million to support teen programming since 1995.  In addition, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens provides grants to other worthy programs designed to help teens stay in school and on the path to graduation. This year, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens will distribute $1.8 million in local grants to nearly 300 organizations.

About The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation

Mark Wahlberg and his family established the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation on the belief that no child should be prevented from living up to his or her potential due to financial hardship.  The Foundation works to improve the quality of life for teens living in urban communities and distributes funds to support local youth service and enrichment programs nationwide. A life-long member and advocate of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Mark comes from a family of nine children with limited means and spent most of his afternoons and evenings at his local club.   He credits a large part of his success to the fact that he was fortunate to spend his free time in a positive and nurturing environment.  Visit www.markwahlbergyouthfoundation.com.  

About the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens

The Taco Bell Foundation, Inc., also known as the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens (TBFT), a non-profit 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation, is committed to addressing the growing number of high school dropouts in the U.S. by providing at-risk youth with mentors and real-world experiences that will motivate them to stay in school and achieve more in life, and to collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to garner greater impact. Since 1995, TBFT has donated more than $28 million to support teen programs at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and other teen-serving organizations with the help of on-going customer, franchisee and employee donations.  For more information about TBFT, visit www.graduatetogo.com.

About Taco Bell Corp.

Taco Bell Corp. ("Taco Bell"), a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., (NYSE: YUM), is the nation's leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain. Taco Bell serves tacos, burritos, signature quesadillas, grilled stuffed Burritos, nachos, and other specialty items such as Crunchwrap Supreme®, in addition to the 79-89-99 WHY PAY MORE®! Value Menu. Taco Bell serves more than 36.8 million consumers each week in nearly 5,600 restaurants in the U.S.

(1) Bridgeland, John, Dilulio, John, Jr.; Morison, Karen Burke (2006).  The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts.  Washington, DC:  Civic Enterprises.

SOURCE The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens