If you go

The Chattanooga GradNation Summit is July 20 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

Register at by July 15.

A little more than 82 percent of students in Hamilton County graduate from high school. This number is a tick above the national average, but the United Way of Greater Chattanooga and the Hamilton County Department of Education want it to increase.

The groups are forming a partnership to work to raise the graduation rate, and are hosting a GradNation Summit on July 20 in Chattanooga.

The GradNation Summit is one of 100 community summits taking place across the country organized by America's Promise Alliance, an organization focused on increasing the number of Americans who graduate from high school. The organization says the goal of these community summits is to raise the national graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.

"By attending [the summit] you are able to learn from experts and be a part of the conversation and solutions," said Becky Coleman, director of literacy for Hamilton County Schools. "We really want to get the community's voice in the education of our children, and this is the perfect opportunity because we are going to address birth to college career."

A series of workshops is planned during the event to allow the community to discuss the topics of early school readiness, foundational literacy, the transition into middle school and high school graduation. State and national experts are also scheduled to speak.

Vicki Kirk, deputy commissioner from the Tennessee Department of Education, and Joanna Fox, senior policy analyst and program developer for Everyone Graduates, a research program of Johns Hopkins University, will be keynote speakers at the event.

Eboni-Rose Thompson, an alliance engagement manager with America's Promise, hopes the city will be able to find some solutions and accelerate action to raise the local high school graduation rate.

"Progress often happens from the community level up. And because the needs in each community can be very different, the solutions will be too," she said.

Jamie Bergmann, senior vice president of community impact at the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, said this is a rare opportunity to hear from experts about issues going on in Chattanooga that are affecting our citizens. She said this event is just the kickoff to the partnership between the United Way and the school system.

"We are formalizing a plan to move forward together," Bergmann said, "This day is just the start."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at or 423-757-6592.