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A challenge for graduates

| June 13, 2010 9:00 PM

Congratulations to each and every graduating high school senior.

On your way out the door, though, there's one last thing you can do.

Extend a hand, a hug, some advice, some encouragement to a struggling underclassman. You're the socially networked generation, right? Then be there for someone wobbling on the path that you've successfully tread.

Text them. Friend them on Facebook. Do whatever it takes to identify just one potential dropout and make their eventual graduation part of your mission, too. You already know who they are. Now do something about it.

This isn't just a moral quandary; it's a financial one with resoundingly negative consequences.

While exact numbers for Kootenai County dropouts are not available, we can do some relative calculations using figures from a just-released study by Alliance for Education (alliance4ed.org). The study examined high school graduation rates at the nation's largest cities and determined financial impact on those communities. The Boise metropolitan area, from which the study says an estimated 2,000 students dropped out of the Class of 2008, suffered accordingly.

If that dropout rate were merely cut in half, the area would likely have:

• seen $11 million in increased earnings in the average year;

• spent an additional $7.5 million and invested an additional $2.5 million each year;

• created an additional 100 jobs from the increased spending in their local areas and increased the gross regional product by as much as $14 million;

• boosted home sales with an additional $25 million in mortgage capacity over what they would spend without a diploma;

• spent an additional $1 million each year purchasing vehicles; and

• boosted tax revenue by $1.7 million.

Fair enough, graduating senior. Maybe those numbers don't mean as much to you as they do to those who will immediately foot the bill for dropouts through welfare programs or even incarceration. Help one struggling student for an even greater cause: Because he or she will forever be not just wealthier, but happier and healthier too.

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