As First Lady, Beshear, a former teacher, committed herself to improving graduation rates and literacy in the commonwealth, especially among vulnerable populations.
In 2008, she organized ‘Graduate Kentucky: A Community Approach,’ where she conducted regional summits at which advocates brought attention and solutions to the dropout crisis in Kentucky. These efforts led to a statewide action plan and ultimately the passage of legislation that raised Kentucky’s dropout age from 16 to 18. As part of these efforts, Beshear also hosted a GradNation Community Summit in Knox County in June 2015.
In the area of literacy, Beshear sponsored an array of initiatives to encourage reading among both children and adults, including a week-long Kentucky Literacy Celebration; an annual “Feed the Mind” event that brought nearly 8,000 fourth and fifth grade students to the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena in 2015, her last year in office; a quarterly book list called “First Lady Reading Recommendations” that featured titles appropriate for ages 2-16; and partnerships with Scholastic Books and others that expanded libraries in impoverished school districts and regions.
Beshear said she looked forward to working with the dynamic board at America’s Promise because it would let her continue her lifelong efforts.
“I have always admired America’s Promise both for its vision and for its commitment to helping all young people succeed,” Beshear said. “Kentucky has made great leaps forward in education over the last couple of decades because the public and private sectors collaborated to form a veritable army of education warriors. America’s Promise has been and will continue to be a key partner in Kentucky’s success.”
The America’s Promise board, which now consists of 22 directors, provides strategic counsel regarding the organization’s mission and work, including the GradNation campaign, a national movement to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and increase college enrollment and completion.