In fall 2012, Get Schooled — our nationwide effort to inspire and empower students to graduate from high school and succeed in college — went back to school with a completely refreshed brand, a redesigned website and a backpack-full of new initiatives — all informed by our unmatched ability to connect with young people.
Get Schooled speaks kids’ language. It involves celebrities who have real credibility with young people. And its message — graduate from high school, succeed in college — is delivered in classrooms, online, through Viacom’s brands and everywhere else kids are found.
It’s a message that everyone at Viacom deeply believes in. But it has special significance for Sway Calloway, MTV News correspondent and frequent celebrity host of Get Schooled events. “I’m very passionate about Get Schooled,” he said, “because I didn’t have a chance to continue my education the way I wanted to. Growing up in Oakland, California, we faced a lot of adversity in our community, and education wasn’t a priority. So being a part of a program that can help people who grew up like I did — it’s my way of giving back.”
This year, Get Schooled refreshed its brand, rocking a head-turning new attitude to deepen the connection with kids. It features up-to-the-minute design elements in all online and print materials, an enhanced presence on social media sites and mobile devices, and new on-air spots. It’s also fun, street smart and encouraging, stressing that education is the route to achieving something great and having the future you want.
The campaign’s website at getschooled.com reflects this new look. Just as important, it’s filled with innovative features and strategies to engage students. The site’s been gamified, offering entertaining ways for students to learn and build up points, badges, rewards and recognition. There are trivia, polls and quizzes, which, while available to all users, also serve as key components in Get Schooled’s in-school Challenges. In 2012, students played 80,000 games on the site, and nearly 1 million people visited Get Schooled online platforms.
Get Schooled offers several popular initiatives and has introduced new ones to increase school attendance and help students find financial aid for college.
For example, the organization continues to help kids get to school on time, recruiting celebrities like One Direction, Big Sean, Ne-Yo and Swizz Beatz to record wake-up calls for students. More than 95,000 signed up for the calls in 2012.
Get Schooled also continued its Fall Attendance Challenge initiative, a national contest in which students earn points for participation and raising attendance rates. The winning school receives a visit from a top celebrity, who leads a celebration event and serves as a “Principal for the Day.” Stony Point High School in Round Rock, Texas, took the prize in 2012; students there will meet their guest principal in 2013. The 2011 winner, Aki Kurose Middle School in Seattle, had its substitute principal — the R&B star Ne-Yo — serve in early 2012 as a reward for its 90 percent attendance record.
Schools in Metro Detroit had their own Attendance Challenge in 2012, sponsored by GM and the United Way. Lincoln High School won the contest with a 10 percent improvement in overall attendance, receiving a visit from the rapper and hometown hero Big Sean.
“When we went to Detroit, it looked like a war zone,” Calloway said. “It reminded me a lot of Oakland, and a lot of the kids that I saw at this event reminded me of my friends and myself when we were younger. To be able to go there and tell my story really meant a lot to me. To say to these kids, ‘You can do what I’m doing. You can do more than what I’m doing. But it requires some dedication.’ And that’s what I think Get Schooled is really about,” he added. “You’ve got to make a personal investment in yourself to get that return that you’re hoping for. It’s definitely possible.”
In addition to accentuating the positive with its Attendance Challenges in 2012, Get Schooled also brought attention to the high cost of skipping school. “Skipping to Nowhere,” a groundbreaking study based on in-depth interviews with more than 500 teens in 25 cities, shows how skipping just a few days of school can dramatically affect grades and even decrease the chances of graduating. The stark figures are brought home by a Missing Matters online calculator, which students and their families can use to see the effect the days they’ve missed might have on their futures.
Graduating from high school is great. Going on to college is even better, and Get Schooled helps students find the financial help they need to move on to higher education. My College Dollars, a partnership between MTV and the College Board, is a Facebook app that utilizes information from a student’s Facebook profile — including age, gender and state — to connect them with targeted financial aid opportunities. In addition to matching students with scholarships, the youth-conceived application also provides information, guidance and tools that enable students to make smart financial decisions about paying for college. More than 150,000 students used it to access scholarship information in 2012. Many more got additional information about paying for college on getschooled.com.
Our first-ever College Dollars Challenge got students to apply for help from the government by completing their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Fifty schools participated in the contest won by Thurgood Marshall High School in Washington, D.C., which had a 100 percent completion rate. To celebrate this achievement, Get Schooled brought LMFAO to the school to put on a concert.
Get Schooled touched millions of American students, parents, educators and others in 2012. There are many ways to measure its impact: through the number of people who visited the Get Schooled website, or the increased attendance at schools participating in its challenges, or the number of students who got help looking for financial aid. But another, more direct way to understand the difference it has made is to listen to those who have been positively affected by the organization:
“For years Mount Pleasant High School has been criticized, whether it was for violence, NECAP scores or attendance. But that has now changed. Get Schooled has motivated the Mount Pleasant High School community to become unified. For the last few months, we have truly been challenged to attend school and each day we continue to reach our goal.” —Alondra and Dami
“THANK YOU! Get Schooled had a good impact on our school…Get Schooled has also been boosting our grades. Without you guys, we would not be where we are right now. We thank you for everything you have done for our school. We appreciate it!” —Jeremy
“I’ve interviewed President Clinton and President Obama, and I’ve covered a lot of big events, but the most gratifying work has been doing Get Schooled — really pushing the importance of education, and going into these inner cities and trying to make education as important to these kids as hip-hop culture or fashion. Seeing the end result, going into these schools and seeing that the attendance rate has increased, that test scores have increased…for me, it’s just been very gratifying. I’ve been very lucky to be a part of it.” —Sway Calloway
“Get Schooled is a wonderful tool for providing students an opportunity to lead a school-wide activity full of positive incentives. What our student body learned through their participation in Get Schooled is how important student engagement is to the educational process. Our students learned how to identify and engage school community resources to help them actively participate in the challenge and ultimately encourage their peers to come to school every day and on time.” —Alan Rubeck, Coordinator, Buffalo Public Schools Student Asset Ambassadors