The Raise Up Project

Almost one million high school students drop out each year.
Let’s change that.

The Raise Up Project begins with you.

If you are 15-22 years old, we invite you to speak to why so many young people are leaving high school before graduation.

Raise Up features an online hip hop and spoken word competition. Five individual winners will each receive a $5,000 educational scholarship* and a trip to Washington DC to perform at the Kennedy Center on September 28 as part of the Raise Up Project culminating event. One group piece will also be selected to receive a $2,500 award.

Winners will be selected through a three-round process in which the American public and guest judges vote for the pieces that have the most resonance to them (Final Judges include Rosario Dawson and Russell Simmons). After the event at the Kennedy Center, the participants in The Raise Up Project have the opportunity to be featured in a series on National Public Radio that will air in late 2014.

*educational scholarships can be applied to a variety of experiences.


Why The Raise Up Project?

It is critical that young people have an opportunity to celebrate educational success stories, and to move to the center of the conversation about the personal and institutional factors that contribute to young people leaving high school without graduating. We believe that new perspectives and new solutions need to be brought to the table, so we are inviting young people to raise their voices and be heard.

We invite young people to share their stories, struggles, successes, and questions with each other and with the American population at large, including leaders in the educational reform movement. We want you to be a part of combatting the isolation so many students feel.

According to almost all research, young people who do not graduate from high school face increased obstacles throughout their lives, including higher rates of incarceration, shorter life spans, worse overall health, and less earning power than their peers with degrees. Yet thousand drops our daily. Whether you want to highlight student champions, or want to share your perspective on how you think it’s the school system as a whole failing – or maybe you think it’s individual schools, youth themselves or a combination of multiple factors – we want to hear from young people in their own words.

For many teenagers, an unfortunate gap exists between the importance and power of a good education, and whether or not their schools are safe places where nurturing yet rigorous educations can happen.

The Raise Up Project will look at the complexity of the drop-out crisis from multiple youth perspectives. We invite you to share your graduation success stories, to talk about individual and familial responsibility, the importance of graduating, the outside pressures, under-resourced schools and teachers, school safety, over-reliance on testing, and varying cultural barriers that get in the way from getting the degree.

The American Graduate

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is a long term public media commitment, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. Public media plays a significant role building individual activity, community capacity, and national awareness.

The dropout crisis demands attention now, and we are rising to the challenge of doing our part to address this problem. A new study conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education finds that the American Graduate initiative has succeeded in building community capacity to meet the national priority of ending America’s high school dropout crisis.

Youth Speaks

Founded in 1996, Youth Speaks is a multi-faceted organization that understands and believes that the power, insight, creativity, and passion of young people can change the world. In addition to a wide variety of arts education, youth development, and presentation programs that serve thousands each year in the Bay Area, we house a repertory theater company (The Living Word Project) that commissions, produces and tours internationally-recognized new work in new aesthetics, host an annual gathering of young poets and poetry organizations from throughout the world (Brave New Voices), and have helped build a network of like-minded organizations throughout the country.

Youth Speaks is one of the leading nonprofit presenter of spoken word education, performance, and youth development programs in the country.

Brave New Voices

Brave New Voices is both the International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, and an ever-growing network of organizations challenging young people to find, develop, publicly present, and apply their creative and critical voices as leaders for positive social change. As seen on HBO, Brave New Voices is about bringing together young poets from across the globe so that they can create new pathways toward artistic growth, civic engagement, and youth development. The location of Brave New Voices rotates each year, and is powered by Youth Speaks.


AIR is a vibrant international production network made up of 1000 public media journalists, documentarians, technicians, media entrepreneurs, and sound artists with a core expertise in independent audio production. The Boston-based organization identifies, cultivates, and deploys producers to deepen understanding of and bring enlightenment to citizens worldwide. Its training programs and productions are defining and driving an expanding media landscape spanning digital/technology, broadcast, and street media platforms.

Urban Word NYC

Urban Word NYC champions the voices of New York City youth by providing platforms for critical literacy, youth development and leadership through free and uncensored writing, college prep and performance opportunities. Urban Word presents literary arts education and youth development programs in the areas of creative writing, spoken word, college prep, literature and hip-hop. We provide free, safe and uncensored writing workshops to teens year round. Our host of programs and artistic development opportunities expose more than 25,000 NYC teens to the art of spoken word poetry each year. Through our Creatively College Bound Program we award over $1,000,000 in scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities each year.