High School Graduation

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A high school diploma is a critical milestone on the path to a post-secondary degree and/or a self-sustaining career.

Whether you are headed to college, pursuing a credential or beginning your career, a high school diploma is essential. High school graduates have a higher earning potential, contribute more to our local economy and are more engaged in the community.

Unfortunately, too many of our residents – particularly those in low-income areas – are not graduating high school on time – if at all. One out of every 10 high school students in the Richmond and Petersburg region did not graduate on time. We can do better. We must do better.

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High School Graduation: By the Numbers

Increasingly, completion of high school or its equivalent is the minimum level of education sought by employers. Moreover, unemployment rates are lower and lifetime earnings are substantially higher for high school graduates than students who drop out.

Our region’s on-time high school graduation rate is 89.4% (class of 2017).

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When compared to their peers who finish high school or college, youth who drop out of school often have lower salaries and are more likely to become unemployed. The high school dropout rate is based on a four-year study of a group of students who enter ninth grade for the first time together with the expectation that they will graduate in four years. It expresses the percentage of students in an expected graduating class who dropped out – and did not re-enroll – during that four-year period.

Our region’s high school dropout rate is 6.9% (class of 2017).

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Children missing 15 or more days of the school year are much more likely to struggle to graduate high school on time. Chronic absenteeism creates and widens achievement gaps throughout elementary, middle and high school. Students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent and the impact of absenteeism on their academic performance is twice as great as it is on their more affluent peers.

In the 2015-16 school year, 13.1% of our region’s high school students (7,371 students) missed more than 10% of school days.

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Youth who are arrested as juveniles have higher rates of incarceration as an adult. National studies have shown that up to one-third of incarcerated youth return to incarceration within a few years after release. There is an indirect correlation between educational attainment and arrest and incarceration rates, particularly among males.

In 2016, our region’s arrest rate was 23.0 arrests per 1,000 juveniles ages 10-17, for a total of 2,671 arrests.

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What We Do

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg funds programs that provide critical support to students as they approach graduation. We also work with school districts and community organizations to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep students in school and on track to graduate.

  • We serve as the backbone of the Petersburg City and Schools Partnership, which works to create the climate and conditions for every student to succeed by providing a sustainable, coordinated system of supports and access.

Spotlight on Success

We work directly with the Petersburg Department of Health to implement a program to address teen pregnancy in the city. By working with students in schools as well as families, we successfully have reduced teen pregnancies in Petersburg by 54 percent since 2009. Click here to learn more.

How You Can Help

  • Donate. Give to United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. Let us know you want your gift to help increase on-time high school graduation.
  • Volunteer. Want to lend your time to supporting these efforts? Send us an email and we will help match you with the right opportunity. Or visit our Events page to see our existing opportunities.