Today, 61 percent of all job openings in our city require some level of education beyond a high school diploma, such as a workforce certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher. Yet only 28 percent of the adult population has at least a baccalaureate degree (Klineberg, 2013, Greater Houston Partnership, 2014).

By 2018, it is expected that 2.2 million of the 4 million available Texas jobs will require some type of postsecondary credential (Lumina Foundation, June 2013). That’s an exciting opportunity for Houston’s booming economy, but it presents a challenge for America’s most ethnically and culturally diverse metropolitan region.

There are nearly 500,000 students in the Houston area, three-quarters of which are economically disadvantaged (Texas Education Agency). Growing numbers of these students dream of going to college, but for a variety of reasons – financial and otherwise – most don’t enroll, and of those who do, most don’t graduate. In Houston, only 39 percent of economically disadvantaged students enroll in college and only 8 percent earn any credential beyond high school (Educate Texas, Houston Endowment, Tracking postsecondary success for Texas 8th graders from the fall of 2000, 2013). To put it simply, the Houston region has a daunting education gap for students living in poverty.

To have a chance for success in the 21st century, every young person must go beyond a high school diploma. Not just a few, and not just the ones everyone expects to go, but everybody. This is why Project GRAD exists. Since 1994, when very few organizations were taking action on this crucial issue, GRAD has empowered underserved students and families living in low-income communities to develop and achieve their educational aspirations. Today, our mission is more important than ever.

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