Chicago Mayor’s Graduation Initiative Aims to Help Students Compete in Global Economy


“Learn. Plan. Succeed.” That’s the slogan of a new graduation initiative Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to implement at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) by 2020.

Flanked by students, teachers and graduates at Malcolm X College Wednesday, Emanuel announced the first-of-its-kind policy that will require CPS students, starting with the current freshman class, to present one of the following in order to graduate:

  • College acceptance letter
  • Military acceptance/enlistment letter
  • Acceptance at a job program (e.g. coding bootcamp)
  • Acceptance into a trades pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship
  • Acceptance into a “gap-year” program
  • Current job/job offer letter

Without a “post-high school education plan,” they won’t graduate.

“We live in a period of time where you earn what you learn,” Emanuel told CBS This Morning. “The school system of a K-12 is not applicable to the economy of the world that our students are graduating to. […] We want to make 14th grade universal now.”

Right now, 59 percent of graduating seniors in CPS already have a “concrete post-secondary plan.” The goal is to have an impact on the harder-to-capture 41 percent of students who don’t have one.

Emanuel’s initiative recognizes the fact that a 4-year degree may not be the right path for everyone, but every student should have a path for themselves once they leave high school. There are many options out there for students, and CPS will give credit to several recognized postsecondary paths to ensure a level playing field for all students.

WorkingNation has been highlighting programs, employers, and organizations that offer pathways for students outside of the 4-year degree. Some of these include:

YearUp: Connecting young adults who need opportunity with companies who need their talent.

Girls Who Code: Organization that gives girls grades 6-12 access to peers and mentors that help them learn to use computer science to solve problems in their day-to-day lives and make a positive impact on the world.

Toyota: One of the world’s leading auto manufacturers to recreate secondary schooling from the ground up with a goal of creating the perfect employees for their specialized needs.

For more organizations that can help young adults find their way during and after high school, click here.