Soledad O’Brien to Host ‘American Graduate Day 2015’ On Arizona PBS

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“American Graduate Day 2015” airs on Arizona PBS on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

PHOENIX – (Sept. 30, 2015)

“American Graduate Day” returns to Arizona PBS this fall, hosted by Peabody Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien and featuring a lineup of high-profile guests who will discuss strategies to boost high school graduation rates across the country.

This seven-hour PBS special is part of the public media initiative “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen,” a movement dedicated to raising graduation rates across the country to 90 percent by 2020 through mobilizing community support to affect positive change.

As part of its commitment to the American Graduate initiative, Arizona PBS is working to raise awareness of the high school dropout crisis in America, which is particularly serious in Arizona, and to facilitate community-based partnerships to help focus on solutions in key areas including early education, college and career readiness, caring consistent adults and student engagement /re-engagement. Arizona PBS will highlight the importance and impact of the initiative and champion its supporters on-air with the return of “American Graduate Day” Saturday, Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We at Arizona PBS are proud partners of the ‘American Graduate’ initiative dedicated to supporting and improving the quality of modern education and decreasing the high school dropout rate in Arizona,” said Kim Flack, associate general manager of Educational Outreach at Arizona PBS. “We hope to reduce the dropout rate by drawing community awareness and support to help inspire more young people to earn their high school diplomas and college degrees, and ultimately open the door to a wider variety of career opportunities.”

Broadcast and streamed live from the WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City, the annual multiplatform event aims to help communities bolster graduation rates through the power and reach of local public media stations. Featuring seven hours of national and local programming, live interviews and performances, “American Graduate Day 2015” will celebrate the exceptional work of individuals and groups across the country who are American Graduate Champions: those helping local youth stay on track to college and career successes.

Arizona PBS will spotlight several organizations working to help keep students on the path to graduation and college, including Save the Children, United Way, Reading Is Fundamental, YMCA and others.

This year, the program introduces a new call to action with seven simple steps to become an American Graduate Champion:

  • Reading with a child
  • Mentoring a young person
  • Volunteering with a youth program
  • Reaching out to someone with special needs
  • Taking a child to a science exhibit
  • Donating school supplies
  • Talking to children about your career

These steps support education and emphasize the critical themes of career readiness, college completion, dropout prevention and early education. Adults community-wide are encouraged to take the seven-step challenge and join community leaders, educators, journalists and celebrities from across the country in their mission to help keep children of all ages in school and on the path to high school graduation.

Celebrities participating in American Graduate Day include:

  • Former President George W. Bush
  • Gen. Colin and Alma Powell (America’s Promise Alliance)
  • Jason Derulo (VH1 Save the Music Foundation)
  • Zendaya (Get Schooled)
  • Allison Williams (Horizons National)
  • Shaquille O’Neal (My Brother’s Keeper Alliance)
  • Billy Bob Thornton (Merrimack Hall)
  • Paul Shaffer (Little Kids Rock)
  • Dolly Parton (Imagination Library)
  • Ed Asner (Autism Speaks)
  • Penn & Teller (Opportunity Village)
  • Mario Batali (Mario Batali Foundation)
  • U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (4-H)
  • Regina Carter (VH1 Save the Music Foundation)
  • Sean Casey (The Miracle League)
  • Bob and Suzanne Wright (Autism Speaks)
  • Cynthia Germanotta (Born This Way Foundation/Emotion Revolution) 

Confirmed American Graduate Day moderators include Juju Chang (ABC), Rehema Ellis (NBC), Jane Pauley (CBS), Susie Gharib (Fortune), Rebecca Jarvis (ABC), Bill Ritter (WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News), Hari Sreenivasan (PBS NewsHour Weekend), Lauren Wanko (NJTV News) and Mary Alice Williams (NJTV News). Speakers will examine a variety of central topics regarding the current education crisis in the U.S., present stories of champions, testimonials and musical performances.

The broadcast and online event will feature a mix of live and pre-taped segments spotlighting organizations reinvigorating communities around the country and illustrate how they provide support, advice and intervention services to at-risk students, families and schools. Within each half-hour block, Arizona PBS will customize the national feed with locally-produced content.

Viewers on-air and online who are interested in connecting with local organizations and youth as American Graduate Champions can send a text on the day of broadcast or log on to to find out more about the national and regional organizations involved and how to help in their hometowns. Viewers will also be invited to participate in the live discussion via Twitter and Facebook using the #AmGrad and #AmGradAZ hashtags.

Within the framework of the “American Graduate” initiative, Arizona PBS is working with community partners to implement a variety of educational enrichment programs to help achieve the goal of more students graduating, such as the First Things First Arizona Early Childhood Workforce and Professional Development Registry, ACE community workshops throughout Arizona (funded by Steele Foundation), PBS LearningMedia professional development resource for schools throughout Arizona, the Opportunity Youth Board, Arizona PBS primetime and “Ready to Learn” programming and much more.

A complete list of organizations currently supporting the Arizona PBS “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” initiative in Arizona is available online at: by clicking Get Involved/Champions.

To learn more about the initiative, visit the Arizona PBS official “American Graduate” microsite:

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