Graduation Generation Preps Students for Success

Graduation Generation and Emory are making a positive impact on Atlanta schoolchildren.

By Michelle Valigursky

School success and graduation rates depend on many factors such as availability of educational resources, extent of parental and teacher involvement, consistency in both attendance and application, and individual determination. Rick Rieder 83B, Emory Board of Trustees member and chief investment officer and co-head of fixed income at BlackRock, Inc., understands that a child with a challenging home environment might need even more support to achieve ultimate educational, social, and health success.

Rieder pledged $1 million during Campaign Emory to support the work of Emory’s Center for Community Partnerships (CFCP), in partnership with Communities in Schools of Atlanta, to help improve academic achievement and graduation rates in the Atlanta Public Schools.  Called “Graduation Generation Atlanta,” this collaborative family-school-university-community partnership in the Coan-Jackson Cluster has engaged with more than a dozen community and philanthropic organizations, including the Zeist Foundation and the Whitefoord Community Program, both organizations with long-standing ties to Emory. Now, with effective K-12 programming established and three full-time staff members, the potential for urban educational improvement is promising.

“We have a window in our society today to do something very special, given the current level of support for education at the national, state, and local government levels,” Rieder has said. Rieder serves on the National Leadership Council of Communities in Schools and chairs the board of trustees for the nine schools of North Star Academy Charter School System of Newark, New Jersey. He also sits on the board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters board of Newark and Essex County and the Newark Youth Foundation. “We have the opportunity to develop the talent of so many of our kids who otherwise may not have had a fighting chance to succeed.”

Empowering just such change is Rieder’s mission. “This is the most exciting thing that we can do as a collective community. We will win at this,” he says. “The only question is on how large a scale. I am thrilled to be a part of this effort and have grand hopes for what we can ultimately accomplish.”

In the first two years of operation, Graduation Generation has offered a program that is holistic and addresses issues ranging from violence prevention to providing summer enrichment opportunities that nurture the whole child (camps focused on academics, arts, sports). The program initiated in the Jackson-Coan cluster in the Edgewood, Kirkwood, and Eastlake neighborhoods of East Atlanta. In this area, approximately 90 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.  Building on its base at Sammye E. Coan Middle School, the program has expanded operations to King Middle School and Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School.

Progress to date has already been very encouraging. Absenteeism and disciplinary problems, two leading at-risk indicators of school dropout, declined in Coan Middle School last year, the first full year of Graduation Generation activities in the school. At Emory, program numbers are staggering. More than 200 Emory people – including five faculty members, 40 staff members, and 150 students – worked with more than 500 Jackson-Coan Cluster students.  Emory professors contributed more than 300 hours to design and implement three new courses. Graduate students from Emory’s Center for Science Education spent 1,800 hours with Coan teachers to incorporate problem-based learning into one-third of middle school classes. University students tutored 200 Coan students to reinforce learning and prepare for adequate yearly progress (AYP) testing, and tutored more than 300 elementary and middle students in reading. Emory students and staff worked with more than 60 elementary students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) club activities and with twenty Jackson High School students to teach Kingian Nonviolence Principles.

“The Rieder gift has been a tremendous boost to Emory’s community-engaged scholarship, learning, and service around issues pertaining to schools, communities, children, and families,” says Michael Rich, Executive Director and Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies, Center for Community Partnerships.  “It has brought together faculty, staff, and students from several departments and programs and focused their work on the Coan-Jackson cluster. It has also enabled Emory to play a leadership role in helping a broad group of community partners—schools, community groups, nonprofit agencies, philanthropic organizations—think more strategically about how we all work better together to improve outcomes for students, schools, and communities.”

“Improving the quality and reputation of the local public schools will be an essential element of retaining these families and encouraging them to enroll their children in the cluster schools,” says Bevin Carpenter Sr., Graduation Generation’s community partnerships manager.

Barbara Coble 10PhD, Graduation Generation’s education partnerships manager, looks forward to future growth for the program. “Additional fiscal and technical resources will enable Graduation Generation to extend its reach throughout the cluster, enhance its impact at the local level – and move closer to becoming a best practices model for engaging a top-tier research university working in collaboration with community organizations to meet the critical challenge of transforming the K-12 education of our nation’s children.”

Rieder Inducted into Fixed Income Hall of Fame

As chief investment officer and co-head of fixed income at BlackRock, Inc., Rieder’s leadership has earned him many professional accolades. He has been hailed as a visionary in his field.

In April, Rieder was honored by the Fixed Income Analysts Society, Inc. (FIASI) for his lifetime achievements “in the advancement of the analysis of fixed-income securities and portfolios.” He is recognized for “major contributions to the advancement of fixed-income analysis and portfolio management.”

Rieder was inducted to the FIASI Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in New York City. FIASI, which sponsors the Hall of Fame, is a not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the education of its membership and the fixed income community at large. FIASI serves its members by sponsoring educational programs and workshops covering topics of current interest and presented by distinguished industry leaders.

According to Mark Howard, Vice President of the New York-based Fixed Income Analysts Society, “Throughout his career, Mr. Rieder has achieved professional excellence while leading others with an infectious combination of inclusive curiosity and raw energy. As a consequence, he has created deep legacies on both sides of Wall Street and with the not-for-profit organizations he supports. Reflecting these multi-faceted contributions to the fixed income markets and the community at large, our organization’s Board was unanimous in its selection of Mr. Rieder for its Hall of Fame.”

Board of Trustee member Rick Rieder 83B worked with Goizueta Business School to establish the Investment fund for teaching financial literacy for kids in Atlanta. He has served on numerous Emory finance and investment committees as well as the Dean’s Advisory Council. In 2005, he was honored with Goizueta School of Business Distinguished Achievement Award. Last year, he was named a Notable Alumnus for his work with BlackRock. He is married to Debra Lieb Rieder 85B. They have two daughters – Danielle and Melanie Rieder 15B.