GM, United Way Celebrate 'Network of Excellence' Success

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A $27.1 million grant from the GM Foundation to United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) five years ago to improve graduation rates at seven Detroit-area high schools has helped raise graduation rates from around 50 percent to nearly 80 percent.

On stage at the Michigan Science Center on Tuesday, some of the first class of graduates from the Network of Excellence schools revealed their plans to attend college and make themselves career-ready.

"Through this initiative, we have been able to take major steps in turning around these schools from dropout factories," said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of GM Global Product Development and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.

"Year over year, we've watched these students grow and succeed and this year just marks another milestone that they can be proud of," said Reuss. "The investment of not just dollars, but also so many hours from our employees, has created a culture which fosters education. This is a shining example of what can happen when a company commits to a cause."

In addition to the GM Foundation's financial investment, more than 3,000 GM employees and retirees have logged more than 53,000 volunteer hours at schools and in neighborhood-based projects over the past year alone.  GM executives sit on an advisory committee called the Champions Council at each network schools. Through the GM Student Corps, 10 students from each network school and students from other Network of Excellence schools receive paid summer internships with GM retirees and college students as mentors who help them identify and achieve goals and prepare for adulthood.

"We knew when we started this initiative that our goals were audacious," said Michael Brennan, CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, which plans to transform the region into one of the nation's Top 5 places to live and work by 2030.

"This has truly been a collective effort with GM and GM Foundation employees, retirees, volunteers, education partners and government and community leaders. The success of the students at GM Network of Excellence schools is inspiring, and it is proof positive of the power of public-private partnerships."

The five-year grant is the largest donation in GM Foundation history.  

"Increasing access to a solid education is a primary focus for General Motors," said Vivian Pickard, president of the GM Foundation. "This initiative was carefully developed to get these students excited about learning, engaged after school and over the summer and ultimately, driven toward high school graduation and beyond."

The seven Detroit-area high schools that are part of the "GM Network of Excellence" include: Central Collegiate Academy High School, East Detroit High School, Hamtramck High School,Harper Woods High School, Henry Ford High School, Madison High School and River Rouge New Tech International High School.  In addition to support of these high schools, funds from the $27.1 million grant helps sustain more than 65 Early Learning Centers, with nearly 20 that focus on serving Detroit's most challenged neighborhoods.

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