Betty Morgan

    Dr. Elizabeth Molina Morgan, executive director of the Grad Nation campaign for America's Promise Alliance - the nation's largest partnership network working to improve the lives of young people - will address an audience of education supporters as the featured speaker for University of the Pacific's inaugural Dialogue of Distinction. The event, to be held at Stockton's Stagg High School, is part of Pacific's Beyond Our Gates initiative.

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    Community Engagement

    Dialogues of Distinction

    By Jennifer Torres SidersOct 4, 2011

    As school systems work to boost achievement in a county where 1 in 5 students drops out of high school, one of the nation's leading education experts is coming to Stockton to meet with teachers, administrators and other advocates who are striving to end the dropout crisis and improve the region's college-attendance rate.

    On Oct. 12, Dr. Elizabeth Molina Morgan, executive director of the Grad Nation campaign for America's Promise Alliance - the nation's largest partnership network working to improve the lives of young people - will address an audience of education supporters as the featured speaker for University of the Pacific's inaugural Dialogue of Distinction. The event, to be held at Stockton's Stagg High School, is part of Pacific's Beyond Our Gates initiative.

    Morgan, recently honored by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for her contributions to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, brings more than three decades of experience at all levels of public education, overseeing reform efforts in some of the nation's most troubled school systems.

    "The community has a role in supporting our local school systems as they work to tackle a range of complex challenges," said Lynn Beck, Dean of Pacific's Benerd School of Education. "Dr. Morgan puts our efforts in a national context and adds to our discussion her record of innovation and her commitment to creating educational opportunities for diverse students and parents."

    Education emerged as a top priority during last year's Beyond Our Gates community forums initiated by President Pamela A. Eibeck. The Dialogues of Distinction series fuels that ongoing discussion with cutting-edge views and experience-tested ideas from the country's top thinkers and practitioners.

    Notably, the series is designed as a catalyst for real-world application. After Morgan's remarks, participants will break into smaller, working sessions where they will be challenged to identify and recommend ways to implement her strategies at the local level.

    San Joaquin County has long struggled with dropout rates well above the state average. According to California Department of Education records, nearly a quarter of local students leave high school without a diploma. Of those who do graduate, only about 27 percent have taken and passed the courses necessary for admission to a state college or university. The region also faces daunting educational realities: About 60 percent of children qualify for subsidized school lunches based on their parents' low incomes, and 23 percent speak a language other than English at home.

    The America's Promise Alliance was founded in 1997 with Gen. Colin Powell as its founding chairman. In 2010, with the support of President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Alliance launched its most ambitious effort to date, the Grad Nation campaign. Grad Nation is a 10-year initiative to end the high school dropout crisis and better prepare all young people for college and the 21st century workforce.

    Morgan serves as executive director of the campaign, overseeing its strategic direction and work with education leaders at the national, state and local levels to support school turnaround work. She also encourages them to collaborate with community and business leaders to help bring more essential health, life and academic supports to the nation's most vulnerable young people.

    Grad Nation is the second phase of the Alliance's Dropout Prevention campaign, launched in April 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, the Alliance sponsored and helped convene 105 Dropout Prevention summits in all 50 states, bringing nearly 40,000 policy, business, education, community and faith leaders together with nonprofits, parents and young people to discuss the dropout crisis and begin a dialogue on solutions. Stockton was one of 55 cities selected to host one of those summits.

    As part of her two day visit, Morgan - the 2010 Superintendent of the Year - will hold working meetings with business leaders, school administrators and teachers from throughout San Joaquin County.

    Beyond Our Gates was launched in 2010 as a collaborative campaign to identify ways of improving the social and economic wellbeing of our region. Dialogues of Distinction represents one of the initiatives created as part of that endeavor. Others are the Tomorrow Project, a range of intensive educational outreach efforts - offered in partnership with local organizations - that work directly with students and families to improve academic achievement, and the Beyond Our Gates Community Council, an advisory body formed to help structure Pacific's continued community-engagement priorities.

    List of events

    October 11

    Reception for America's Promise Alliance alumni
    Dr. Morgan will reconnect with the organizers behind Stockton's Dropout Prevention Summit, one of 105 such events held across the country in 2009. (By invitation)

    Dinner with educational practitioners
    A small group of innovative teachers and principals from throughout San Joaquin County will participate in a private working dinner with Dr. Morgan. (By invitation)

    October 12

    Breakfast with President Eibeck
    Dr. Morgan will meet with Pres. Eibeck and other university leaders at a private breakfast.

    Dialogue of Distinction (8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Stagg High School's performing arts theater)
    At the visit's main event, an estimated 200 community leaders and education advocates will gather to hear Dr. Morgan's perspective and to discuss ways to implement her strategies for education reform in the San Joaquin County region.

    Luncheon with business leaders
    Dr. Morgan will present the Business Council of San Joaquin County with Grad Nation's 10-point plan for businesses. (By invitation)

    Dinner with superintendents
    Superintendents and other central-office administrators will participate in a private working dinner with Dr. Morgan. (By invitation)