Where it all began

Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula, founded in 2003, is the first site in the United States to adapt the national GRAD model of education reform to a rural site.

GRAD was founded in Houston by James Ketelsen, then Chairman and CEO of Tenneco. In 1988, Tenneco began funding a four-year college scholarship program, the Tenneco Presidential Scholarship Program, for eligible graduates of Davis High School, at the time Houston’s lowest-performing high school. By 1991–92, the number of Davis graduates entering college had more than quadrupled. Yet, Ketelsen was frustrated because this was still far from his goal of having 40 percent of entering 9th graders enrolling in college. In addition, there was little or no change in SAT or ACT scores. The scholarship program was not having a large enough impact on the dropout rate. Sadly, it appeared that 9th grade was too late to reach most students.

GRAD’s founders realized that if the program were to reach its ambitious goals, it would be necessary to develop and implement a comprehensive set of interventions that would begin in kindergarten (or even before) and span all grades through the 12th. This led to the development of the full K-12 GRAD model.

Today GRAD serves more than 134,000 low-income students in 205 schools across the country, offering a comprehensive Pre K-12 model comprised of five supports that contribute to a culture of academic rigor and college expectations:

  • Academic Support;
  • School Climate;
  • Parent and Community Engagement;
  • School-based Student Support Services;
  • and College Readiness Initiative.

GRAD’s success in diverse communities across the nation is based on the principle of integrating multiple systems and partners, with a strong base of local support and decision making in every GRAD community.