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American University Hosts National “Reach Higher” Convening

In support of the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative, which strives to ensure all students understand what they need to complete education beyond high school, American University is proud to host the 2016 Reach Higher convening on Oct. 28-30, Connecting the Dots: Cultural Competence, Counseling, and College and Career Readiness of Underserved Youth. In today’s economy, a high school diploma isn’t enough. Students have to reach higher, which is why First Lady Michelle Obama is working to rally the country around President Barack Obama’s North Star goal – that by 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. 

With recent news that high school graduation rates are up across the country, there are many reasons to celebrate. But the fact remains that many students continue to fall through the cracks and will not graduate high school nor will they attend college. At American University’s new location for the Washington College of Law, the convening will bring together state teams made up of business, workforce, school and state agency leaders to explore intersections between education and business and recommend practices for work-based learning opportunities. 

Notable speakers include Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.; Reach Higher Initiative Director Eric Waldo; William (Bill) Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education; noted author and founder of BridgeEdU, Wes Moore; and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the International and Foreign Language Education Office Mohamed Abdel-Kader.

“We are thrilled and honored to host the First Lady’s National Reach Higher convening at American University,” said Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean of AU’s School of Education. “The Reach Higher Initiative to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have equitable opportunities for college and career success is totally aligned with our university’s and School of Education’s mission and core values.”

Educators and policy makers increasingly realize that the road to college and careers leads directly through the offices of school counselors, and with an average of 1:500 ratio of school counselors to students across the country, more support is needed. The First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative is committed to helping high school counselors help more students complete their education beyond high school.  

In 2014, Reach Higher hosted a national convening at Harvard that brought experts from the field together to discuss how to better support school counselors and college advising in their efforts to help every student reach their fullest potential. This led to follow up convenings in San Diego and Florida in 2015. With six states organizing their own convenings including Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Massachusetts and Maryland in 2016, a national movement has organically been inspired.

At these convenings, state teams are encouraged to develop commitments that align with the President’s 2020 goal and the goals of Reach Higher to increase postsecondary access and completion outcomes for our nation’s students.

The Reach Higher Initiative is an Administration-wide effort administered by the White House in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. For more information, please visit