Thanks for watching American Graduate Day 2015!
American Graduate Day 2015 was one of the largest collaborative broadcasts in the public television history. Hosted by Soledad O'Brien on October 3, 2015, this live, seven-hour national broadcast celebrated individuals and non-profit organizations dedicated to helping youth stay on track to high school graduation. More than 50 public television stations across the country contributed original content to the program.
Special guests included First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush, General Colin Powell, Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Derulo, Allison Williams, Elmo, Billy Bob Thornton, Dolly Parton, and many more. The broadcast reached 86% of the country, with viewers watching an average of 33 minutes. Of all viewers, 56% were women, and 22% were African American - approximately 75% higher than their representation in the population.
Host Soledad O'Brien was joined by 15 additional hosts including Juju Chang, Jane Pauley, Rehema Ellis, Rebecca Jarvis and Hari Sreenivasan. Throughout the day, American Graduate Day presented interviews with advocates like General Colin Powell, a tearful reunion segment with Big Brothers Big Sisters, heartfelt testimonials from celebrities and luminaries, live performances by students with Paul Shaffer, moving mini-documentaries and compelling Stories of Champions. Viewers were encouraged to go online and take a simple step to become a Champion themselves, like mentoring a student or donating school supplies.
Divided into seven hour-long content strands, topics included: Early Education, Caring Consistent Adults, More and Better Learning, Special Needs Communities, Dropout Prevention and Re-Engagement, and College and Career Readiness. Each hour featured compelling live and taped interviews, live remote panels across the nation, mini-documentaries and celebrity testimonials.
In the weeks leading up to the broadcast, special events were held nationwide, including ringing the NASDAQ closing bell, lighting the Empire State Building with indie rock band Echosmith, and a special live discussion at The Atlantic with Jim Shelton, former Deputy Secretary of Education. National media coverage included: a PEOPLE.com feature on Shaquille O’Neal, a CNN.com op-ed by Soledad O'Brien, and a feature in Education Week, among others.
Throughout the day, viewers were invited to engage with their local public television stations and the featured community organizations. Viewers participated in the event by asking questions and sharing ideas before and during the broadcast on Twitter and Facebook, using the hashtag #AmGrad.
American Graduate Day Launch Event: The Atlantic Exchange
As a part of the American Graduate Day launch, the Atlantic Exchange hosted an event at its headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington, DC, where The Atlantic‘s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons interviewed Jim Shelton, Chief Impact Officer of 2U and Former Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education about education, the high school dropout crisis, and the solutions that are working to keep our nation’s children on track to graduation.
Pat Harrison, CPB President and CEO, made opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of mentors and caring consistent adults in the lives of students, and speaking of public media’s commitment to young people.
More than 100 leaders in education, the nonprofit sector, and government attended the event, including representatives and staff from CPB, PBS, Nine Network, and WNET. In addition, three of this year’s featured American Graduate Champions from across the country attended the event, along with their public media station representatives: Lucretia Taylor-McDonald (KLCS), Jeri Robinson (WGBH) and Jenny Lee (WPSU). A highly engaged digital audience tuned in to the series via Atlantic LIVE’s live stream, and joined the conversation on social media by tweeting #ATLX #AmGrad. When posted, an archive of the discussion will be available on their website.