Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Winner


September 2013


A Fresh School Year Brings New Schools and Big Successes from Last Year


Diplomas Now is starting the school year with two new schools in a new city, Jacksonville, Fla., bringing our total to 39 schools in 13 cities. We've also received several generous donations from the PepsiCo Foundation, AT&T and the Schusterman Family Foundation. On top of that, we are proud of major successes from last year:

  • In East Baton Rouge, La., all three Diplomas Now schools were removed from Louisiana's academically unacceptable list.
  • Rhodes Middle School in San Antonio achieved the highest math proficiency rate in the district.
  • Clinton Middle School in Los Angeles increased the number of eighth-graders who passed their algebra final exams by 28 percentage points and was named recipient of the 2013 Partnership School Award from the National Network of Partnership Schools.



Launching the "I Am Diplomas Now" Campaign - Join Us in Showcasing Our Incredible Students and Staff!  


Diplomas Now is kicking off its "I am Diplomas Now" campaign, during which we will feature short stories on our website and social media outlets profiling students and staffers from our three partner organizations. We want to showcase the commitment and talent of our Diplomas Now team and the major strides our students are making every day.    


This campaign will help bring the Diplomas Now story to life - by showing the faces and stories behind our many successes. We encourage you to send us your suggestions of students and staff members who should be highlighted by emailing

The first person we'll be featuring is Darius Clay, a student who recently shared the compelling story of his experience at the Diplomas Now Summer Institute.



Darius Clay


Darius Clay

"I'm proud to say that I'm a product of Diplomas Now."


Darius Clay earned his diploma in June as part of the first graduating class at Chicago Talent Development High School.


Clay says City Year corps member Jason Dones helped him turn around his failing grades to become an honor roll student and helped him with the college application process. He says his Communities In Schools site coordinator Paul Fagen suggested attending an aeronautical engineering camp at the University of Illinois. And his school transformation facilitator, Jackie Thomas, was "like a mother to me. When I shared an accomplishment with her, her eyes would just fill with joy. This only made me want to see that joy more. Therefore, I kept achieving my goals."


"I'm proud to say that I'm a product of Diplomas Now," Clay said. "The proudest moments of my life have come through Diplomas Now. ... The impact that Diplomas Now has had on my life has been immeasurable. Honestly, without Diplomas Now, I might not be going to college."


Clay was accepted into nine colleges and is studying accounting at Hiram College near Cleveland on an academic scholarship and grants. "College life is great!" he said when contacted recently for an update on his transition to college. "I love it so far. The teacher's teaching method is very vivid and understanding."



#IamDiplomasNow - Join the Conversation!


Help us stir up some buzz online about Diplomas Now and the fantastic students and staffers we work with! Use the hashtag #IamDiplomasNow on your social accounts to highlight outstanding individuals or tell us why you are Diplomas Now. And don't forget to connect with us on the Diplomas Now Facebook page and brand new Twitter handle





PepsiCo Foundation Awards $1 Million to Diplomas Now for Two Chicago Career Academies


Two Diplomas Now high schools in Chicago are starting career academies this fall, thanks to a recent $1 million grant from the PepsiCo Foundation. The academies at Gage Park and John Hope are intended to introduce students to the world of work and prepare them for college and careers.  


"As the labor market becomes increasingly competitive, there is an urgent need to ensure that corporate and private partnerships are leveraged to provide students with the support they need to develop key workforce readiness skills as they continue progressing through high school," said Doug Elmer, director of Diplomas Now.


At Gage Park, about 400 sophomores, juniors and seniors are involved in two career academies: the ACE Academy, on the school's third floor, stands for Academic, Cultural Empowerment Academy, and the BETA, on the second floor, stands for Business, Education, Technology Academy. ACE has three pathways: humanities, social justice and J-ROTC. BETA also has three pathways: entrepreneurship, equipment technology institute and web design. Students in both academies wear uniforms, a big switch from past years. And the career academies complement the ninth-grade academy on the first floor for freshmen.


Read more here.



New Programs at Cardozo Give Students Extra Help to Get to College


Two new exciting programs are getting off the ground this fall to help more students at Cardozo Education Campus get extra help to get into college - and pay for it! The two programs - Strive for College and Scholarship America - are providing tools, coaching and resources to enable students to get into college, thanks to two new generous grants totaling $350,000 from the PepsiCo Foundation.  


Strive for College is bringing undergraduate students from Howard University as one-to-one mentors to help about 60 low-income Cardozo seniors with college readiness, college and scholarship applications, and the financial aid process. Students must be academically eligible for college. Strive uses a comprehensive curriculum that guides students through the college application and financial aid processes during the course of the year. The interactive curriculum sessions are focused on bringing students and mentors together and building excitement and motivation. Learn more about the organization at


Read more here.



AT&T Awards $2 Million to Diplomas Now Through Communities In Schools


AT&T recently awarded $2 million to Communities In Schools to continue its Diplomas Now collaboration and provide site coordinators at Diplomas Now schools. That allocation is part of a larger $5 million grant from AT&T to Communities In Schools. The site coordinators provide intensive support to students who have the greatest challenges. Read more here. Thank you, AT&T!



Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation Awards $2 Million to Diplomas Now


Diplomas Now also gratefully acknowledges the recent generous contribution from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, based in Tulsa, Okla. The foundation, founded in 1987, invests in a diverse portfolio of initiatives in several key areas: improving public education in the United States, strengthening the Jewish community and building the quality of life in the Schustermans' hometown of Tulsa. Thank you, Schusterman Family Foundation!



Diplomas Now is on Twitter!


Come chat with us and follow us for the latest news about Diplomas Now, our partner organizations, and the schools we work in. We invite you to tweet us pictures and fun stories from your school - we'd be happy to retweet and even post to the Diplomas Now Facebook page!





New "Sizzle Reel" of Diplomas Now Media Hits Posted on Website


Check out the new "sizzle reel" of media hits for Diplomas Now! This video showcases Diplomas Now's partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation as well. Click here to watch!


In the News


  • Listen to this story on Columbus public radio station WCBE-FM about the Columbus school board's vote to continue Diplomas Now in three schools. Tune in here!

         Bob Balfanz argues that communities need to strengthen public-private partnerships, such as Diplomas Now, in this Huffington Post commentary.







Stay Connected 


Diplomas Now  |

Like us on Facebook     Follow us on Twitter