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GM, United Way celebrate 'Network of Excellence'

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A $27.1 million grant from the GM Foundation to United Way for Southeastern Michigan has improved graduation rates at seven Metro Detroit high schools over five years.

According to the foundation and nonprofit, the five-year investment has raised the graduation rate from about 50 percent to nearly 80 percent. It's the largest donation in GM Foundation history.

"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. 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."

Funds from the $27.1 million grant also help sustain more than 65 early learning centers, with nearly 20 that focus on serving Detroit's most challenged neighborhoods.

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

The seven Metro Detroit high schools part of the program are 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.

Mark Reuss, executive vice president Global Product Development

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. GM executives also sit on an advisory committee called the Champions Council at each network school.

Through the GM Student Corps, students from each school 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.

"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."

"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."

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