American Graduate Day 2015 is Oct. 3

American Graduate Day 2015 returns this fall for its fourth consecutive year. Soledad O’Brien will host the all-day broadcast which airs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 3, on Nashville Public Television. Broadcast and streamed live from the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City, the annual multiplatform event is part of the public media initiative, American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, helping communities bolster graduation rates through the power and reach of local public media stations.

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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 helping local youth stay on track to college and career successes.

During the half-hour programming blocks, NPT will broadcast a series of original short videos highlighting Middle Tennessee high school students and people who work with them. “Student Voices” videos are brief, but powerful because they feature high schoolers sharing their challenges and triumphs in their own words.

American Graduate Day 2015 will be anchored by “Stories of Champions,” a series of 14 one-minute profile pieces scheduled to air every half hour, which will spotlight individuals and influential figures in local communities around the country who are successfully keeping students on the path to graduation. The broadcast and online event will be divided into 14 half-hour blocks featuring a mix of live breaks and pre-taped partner segments that spotlight the organizations reinvigorating communities around the country and illustrate how they provide support, advice, and intervention services to at-risk students, families, and schools.

This year’s broadcast will also feature seven mini-documentaries that highlight the extraordinary work organizations are doing across the nation. NPT’s “American Graduate Champions” videos also spotlight local institutions and individuals working with students to help then stay in school and go on to lead productive adult lives. Click the links to view NPT’s “Champions” and “Student Voices” videos, or watch for them on-air.

More information about NPT’s American Graduate work is available here:

Teens Share Their Stories in ‘Student Voices’ Videos

Nashville Public Television’s “Student Voices” videos are brief, but powerful because they feature high schoolers sharing their challenges and triumphs in their own words. The series of 20 short videos are being produced by NPT associate producer Shawn Anfinson as part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative supporting community-based solutions to the dropout crisis.

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The “Student Voices” videos are available on NPT’s YouTube channel. We’ll also spotlight one video each week on Facebook and Twitter.

Anfinson meets one-on-one with perspective students – identified with the help of school administrators and teachers – to discuss his goals for the videos, then has follow-up meetings to film the students. “It’s a mistake to lump every at-risk kid into the same category,” Anfinson said. The problems they face are as individual as they are.

In one video, a teen talks about juggling a 30-hour workweek, school and fatherhood. In another, a teen’s career choice is an inspired counter to having growing up feeling judged because of her learning disability. Many of the “Student Voices” kids have worked through the obstacles they’ve faced and are experiencing a turnaround in their lives and grades; others are still looking for solutions – and that’s also an important message to send.

“They’re sharing their most private and personal stories,” Anfinson said, and in doing so, they’re helping people inform their decisions about kids in similar circumstances.

“At the end of the day, graduating from high school is an intentional act” for these students, Anfinson said. “They have to want it; they really have to intend to graduate.”

New ‘NPT Reports: Aging Matters’ documentary premieres May 28

Ask most people and they’ll say they would prefer to remain in their own homes as they age; in other words, they want to age in place. But doing so is fraught with challenges such as climbing stairs, reaching upper cabinets, bathing safely, etc. There are also concerns about the surrounding community: Is there transportation; are there activities and social gatherings to make life enjoyable?

AgingInPlace MantleTitleThe fifth documentary in Nashville Public Television’s NPT Reports: Aging Matters series examines what it takes for Tennesseans to successfully age in place. Aging Matters: Aging in Place will look at challenges and solutions through conversations with Tennesseans facing these decisions now.

Aging Matters: Aging in Place premieres Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion on related topics.

In the documentary, we look at the village movement model in Sewanee, Tennessee, where a cooperative non-profit is helping community members stay in their homes. We will see a national senior transportation model at work in Lexington, Kentucky. Viewers will also learn how a North Nashville neighborhood association is trying to fill in the gaps for elder residents. Lastly, we will learn what happens when a family reaches the limits of caring for a loved one at home.

“This latest program starts a conversation that will get us thinking about what is possible and what we can expect as we age,” said NPT producer Will Pedigo. “We can then create the kind of community that will make living at home feasible.”

Pedigo co-produced the previous documentary in the series – “Aging Matters: Economics of Aging” – and also produced programs in NPT’s “Children’s Health Crisis” and “Next Door Neighbors” series.

The NPT Reports: Aging Matters series is hosted by Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Kathy Mattea. Aging Matters: Aging in Place is made possible by the generous support of Cigna-Healthspring, the West End Home Foundation, the HCA Foundation and the Jeanette Travis Foundation.

Additional broadcast times for Aging Matters: Aging in Place are below; the documentary will also be available for viewing on our website,

Monday, June 1, 8 a.m. on NPT2
Tuesday, June 2, 1 p.m. on NPT2
Saturday, June 6, 7 p.m. on NPT2
Sunday, June 7, 8 a.m. on NPT2
Sunday, June 7, 3 p.m. on NPT2
Friday, June 26, 7 p.m. on NPT



Meet American Graduate Champions who are making a difference

An American Graduate Champion commits his or her time, skills and resources to make sure young people succeed.

Meet five people who are doing just that here in the Nashville area:

Carol Cubillo-Seals started a fundraising drive to provide college scholarships to Latino students who graduate high school.

Dr. Ron Woodard is making an impact on college opportunities for students at Maplewood High School, where he is principal.

Dr. Deborah Smith is a middle school math teacher who serves as a mentor and role model to girls interested in STEM classes and careers.

Khalat Hama is a Kurdish Achievers volunteer who encourages Kurdish youth, especially girls, to stay in school.

Paul Andrews is a volunteer ESL teacher who works with students of Karen refugee families in Smyrna, Tennessee.

We’ve featured each of these American Graduate Champions in a short video; watch all five videos here.

Do you know an American Graduate Champion? Click to nominate yourself or someone else to Become a Champion.



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What will our next ‘American Graduate’ documentary be about?




What will NPT’s third documentary for the “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” project be about? That’s up to you because the topic will come from members of the local community.

Jo Ann Scalf, NPT’s Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement, is currently holding community engagement discussions with parent groups, educators and other members of the community to discover their thoughts on education. In the discussions, Scalf asks general and open-ended questions in order to jump-start, but not direct, the conversation.

“People start talking about things they care about” and they began to reveal the challenges and aspirations of trying to educate the community’s children, Scalf said. The sessions—usually with established groups who already hold regular meetings—are confidential and off-the-record.

Producers will use the insight gained from Scalf’s meetings when determining the focus of NPT’s next “American Graduate” documentary. At that point, the process starts again as the producers begin in-depth research on the chosen topic.

Keep watching and reading for details on NPT’s “American Graduate” projects.


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East Nashville parents at a January 2015 meeting.

Elaine Fahrner Remembered as a Champion for Graduation

NPT mourns the passing of Elaine Fahrner, who was an original American Graduate Champion. She was a dedicated and determined advocate for every student and saw great potential in everyone.  NPT was privileged to partner with her on the American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen initiative, focusing on improving the graduation rate—a passion of Elaine’s.  Her example will continue to inspire and motivate us all.

Elaine was featured in her role as Principal of the Academy at Old Cockrill in one of NPT’s Southern Education Desk Reports, for her work getting her students through to graduation. See link below.

Posted in American Graduate NPT Reports by Kevin Crane. No Comments

Staggering Domestic Violence Stats from Latest NPT Reports Special | Premieres March 29


Our latest public affairs documentary, NPT Reports: Domestic Violence: Living in Fear, premieres Friday, March 29 at 8:00. Here are some staggering statistics from the show. Please consider sharing this graphic. If you or someone you know has questions or is a victim of domestic violence, please call the Domestic Violence 24-hour Crisis & Information Hotline: 615-242-1199 or 800-334-4628.

Domestic Violence Statistics



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Posted in Domestic Violence by Kevin Crane. 2 Comments

NPT Reports: Education Leaders Talk School Safety at Statewide Summit

State leaders and school officials across Tennessee gathered this week to weigh in on a pressing issue in wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting—how can we make schools safer?

“I am a father of a second grade teacher and when I heard the stories about the teachers huddled in classrooms with their kids, like any other parent I picture my daughter huddling there with her eight and nine year olds. And so the discussion becomes particularly relevant and personal for all of us,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said to attendees at the school safety summit.

“Tell me from what you do, everyday, what are the things that we can do that will make a difference?”

The audience was made up of representatives of more than 120 school districts. They shared best practices and heard from state agencies including mental health officials, emergency management, and homeland security.

“The governor’s message is that all of our schools have continuously been working on our security protocols but this is a time to improve…It’s our responsibility to really look at our security plans and really work on making adjustments,” said Tony Majors, Assistant Superintendant of Student Services for Metro Nashville Public Schools .

And thoughts on what adjustments should be made vary. There have been talks in Tennessee to introduce legislation that would require all schools to have an armed staff member of some kind. Governor Haslam says he will review the legislation when it is introduced, but for now, is looking at other options.

“I don’t think the answer for us is necessarily to rush in and say, well we’re going to put SROs [school resource officers] everywhere. I actually met with the sheriff’s office last week and we talked about that and they said you know our problem with that is, when we come to a school we’re looking for the adult with the weapon. And now our folks coming in we have an issue, they’re not just looking for ‘here’s the guy with the gun, that’s the bad guy’, it’s a little bit more difficult for them. So I think there’s questions in my mind about how practical that would be,” said Haslam.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has already gotten the ball rolling on increasing security measures in schools, including placing surveillance cameras in all elementary schools, installing standard locking mechanisms on all classroom doors, and requiring stricter identification procedures for visitors.

Governor Haslam also shared parts of his budget proposal for the coming year, which includes 34 million dollars towards capital improvements in schools across the state. This money can be used towards increased security but that will be left up to individual school districts to decide.

NPT Reports: Graduation by the Numbers

NPT Breaks Down the Graduation Numbers in New American Graduate Special

Half-hour documentary looks at “Graduation by the Numbers;” part of national “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” initiative.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Nashville Public Television (NPT-Channel 8)  takes an in-depth look at efforts in Nashville to keep students in school until they graduate in “NPT Reports: Graduation by the Numbers,” premiering Thursday, January 24 at 9:00 p.m. The documentary is part of the national “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” initiative.

In Nashville Public Schools in 2012, one in 11 students dropped out — 8.8 percent — which is almost four times the previous year’s dropout rate. But a student counted as a dropout is not necessarily someone who does not graduate. The result is that the graduation rate can go up—even as the rate of dropouts goes up.The NPT report, produced and narrated by LaTonya Turner, looks at why the numbers for graduates and those for dropouts often don’t add up.

“The numbers can be confusing and in some cases misrepresentative of who is graduating and who is not,” says Turner.

Nashville school officials have taken the lead in Tennessee by looking for ways to make student data more useful, accurate, and accessible, with the goal of spotting students in trouble before they show up in school reports or drop out altogether. The main risk factors for students dropping out are: attendance, academic performance, and behavior. Using a new online digital system for tracking individual student data called the Data Dashboard, Nashville educators can now pinpoint and trace the risk factors and intervene with the student early enough to prevent failure. They are finding that high school may be too late; the risk in many cases begins in middle school or even earlier.

Nashville’s new middle school bridge program was begun to specifically start honing in on earlier for students at risk of dropping out. Simultaneously, some Nashville high schools are now aggressively working to retain the students who might have slipped through but are starting to slip off the path to graduation..” to graduation. A good example is McGavock High School, the largest school in Nashville, which was among the first to embrace the Data Dashboard as a tool – from the office to students in the classroom. It’s part of McGavock’s aggressive effort to turn around a dismal performance record.

Following Nashville’s lead, Tennessee education officials are on the cusp of launching a statewide online data tracking system. The goal is to help educators more effectively identify and reach out to individual students with strategies and support that address their specific risk factors for dropping out before graduation.

“Graduation by the Numbers” is the second in a series of public affairs documentary by NPT as part of its role in the nationa; Corporation for Public Broadcating (CPB) initiative “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen.” The first was “NPT Reports: Translating the Dream,”  an in-depth look at the graduation rate among ELL and immigrant students in Tennessee; the challenges they face that can prevent them from graduating on time; how schools and teachers are trying to address this increasingly demanding need; and how all of us are impacted when students drop out of school. It is available for free online viewing now at

About Nashville Public Television
Nashville  Public Television is available free and over the air to nearly 2.4  million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky  viewing area, and is watched by more than 600,000 households every week.  The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional  television and interactive telecommunications, high quality educational,  cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the  people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives  of those we serve.

About American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen
American  Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify  and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American  Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its  deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming  that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television  stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in  helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate.

In  addition to national programming, more than 75 public radio and  television stations have launched on-the-ground efforts working with  community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to high school  graduation. More than 800 partnerships have been formed locally through  American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s  America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation .

About CPB
The Corpora tion  for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created  by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s  investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of  more than 1,300 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio  stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for  research, technology, and program development for public radio,  television and related online services.

NPT Reports: High School`s `College Zone` Gets Students on Track

Principal Ron Woodard is the epitome of ‘in your face’—but in a good way.

He’s trying to change the culture of Maplewood High School and get college on his students’ minds, everyday.

“I think it provides students with a focus,” said Woodard, Executive Principal of Maplewood High School in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

“At the end of your four year progression we tell kids that you’re going to meet a crossroads, and they have to start deciding which way they’re going to go…And so we try to get them to think about this decision earlier.”

And there’s a lot for them to think about. Students are regularly given ACT prep, college campus tours, and help with writing important essays. Beginning this year, students are able to go to the College Zone- a one stop shop for access to resources.

“It’s a really unique space. Students have the opportunity to go down at any time during the day. Martha O’Bryan Center is going to provide staff members there on site to assist students with college access need. And so is the Oasis College Connection, they’re going to provide a staff member there to help students find the right fit, to help students with their FAFSA information…helping students write their entrance essays. The whole 9 yards,” said Woodard.

The school’s approach seems to be working. Last year, students received 1.4 million dollars in scholarship money—up from $91,000 the previous year. College acceptance also went up significantly.

Senior David Wilson says he has felt the impact from the College Zone.

“If they had never called me down here I don’t think I would’ve really applied to college,” said Wilson.

“I don’t have a computer at home so I really was just procrastinating…I used to play a lot and stuff like that. But now I see like the real world it’s going to come soon. And if you don’t take grasp of it, it will really tear you down.”

Bobby Rooks, one of Wilson’s college mentors, says he sees students all the time who are surprised at how easy accessing college really is.

“Typically what they thought were barriers were just small things that were in the way. Like once they realize, you know they can fill out a FAFSA form for free, and possibly be eligible for thousands of dollars of grant money or federal work study then they realize that this is something obtainable. It’s not out of reach like I thought it was,” said Rooks.

David Wilson says his relationship with his principal has also made the difference.

“I give the credit to Mr. Woodward; in the hallway he see you, talk to you, really just instill, he has a piece of paper show it in front of your face so you don’t get…he says it on the announcements every morning too. EOC [exams], ACT, and high GPA [grade point average]. That’s how you get money for college and stuff like that.”

“We’re helping inner city urban students, students who come from impoverished conditions, to make their way to the top,” said Principal Ron Woodard.

“I remember being a student in high school and no principal ever asked me about my future, my college plans, my goals. So I make it a point now to be sure to talk to kids about their goals. That sends a message that the person at the top is not just a talking voice or person on the announcements, but you know what? This guy really cares.”