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GOOD Ideas for Cities: Increasing High School Graduation Rates

How to encourage more high school students to get their degrees? Create an off-campus community center where they learn and practice real-life skills.


In the City of St. Louis, like in many urban centers, less than one third of high school students graduate, leading to increased rates of unemployment, crime, and substance abuse. How can cities encourage more students to get their degrees? As part of GOOD Ideas for Cities St. Louis, ACTivate the City presents their idea for motivating students to stay in school by offering them a chance to develop real-life skills. After learning that many students drop out because they feel that their schoolwork is not relevant to the challenges they're already facing outside the classroom, the team created a concept called The Sight, an off-campus building that functions like a cross between a vocational learning environment and community center. Students would work together on renovating the building itself, learning skills like architecture and construction from local experts, then program the space with everything from cultural events to cooking classes to offering babysitting for fellow students who are also parents. The students become invested in improving their local community while creating a safe, creative space that keeps them active and engaged with their fellow students.

Challenge: One of the most critical challenges facing St. Louis is the low graduation rate for St. Louis City schools. Currently, only 20 to 30 percent of St. Louis City students graduate from high school. We know that low graduation rates cost taxpayers more, and as a result there is a rise in crime, homelessness, and substance abuse rates in the city. How do we motivate and empower more local high school students to graduate?

Rachelle Morgan, Shearwater
Jay Swoboda, The Homeless Empowerment Project
Sarah McCabe, The Point

ACTivate the City: Stan Chisholm, Dayna Kriz, Gina Martinez, Kevin McCoy, Mallory Nezam, Carlie Trosclair, Daniel Waxler

To learn more about this idea contact ACTivate the City at thesightstl[at]gmail[dot]com

Video by CAM and Nine Network

GOOD Ideas for Cities pairs creative problem-solvers with real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders. To learn more visit

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