Seventh graders at Riverside Middle School

Seventh graders at Riverside Middle School celebrate making the Honor Roll in January 2015.

Several community across the state will split a $200,000 grant as part of Montana's Graduation Matters program, which targets improving Montana's graduation rates.

Grants support things like middle-to-high-school transition programs, peer mentoring programs, job shadow opportunities and college readiness programs.

Last year, Montana recorded a record-high graduation rate of 86 percent.

Grants are a result of a partnership among the Office of Public Instruction, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, AT&T and State Farm Insurance. Support from the private sector is the foundation on which Graduation Matters Montana was built. Since 2010, businesses have donated more than $1.3 million.

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“Businesses and foundations have always played a big part in this initiative’s success. Whether it's corporations making large donations, or small mom-and-pop stores offering incentives to students for good attendance, they are all investing in the future of Montana,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said. “An investment in our students is critical to the strength of our state.”

There are currently 58 Graduation Matters communities, and 80 percent of public high school students now attend a Graduation Matters school.

Grantees include:

  • Billings (United Way of Yellowstone County), $6,500: Funds will be used for training and implementation of the Montana Behavioral Initiative, Check & Connect and a Reader Tutor Mentor program.
  • Colstrip, $2,500: A new program, the team will focus on student engagement and opportunities for students to explore the options of life after graduation.
  • Crow Agency, $2,500: The team will focus on My Voice survey results, intertwining STEM interest with creative ways to engage students and hoping to build a greater sense of student self-worth. Funding will also be used to host family and community nights where students can share the school projects and assignments.
  • Miles City (Custer County High School), $5,000: The team will continue to work on their Career Cluster Program and use their graduation coach to make sure students are on the track to graduate.
  • Hardin (High School), $5,250: Students will be offered Saturday School, after-school tutoring sessions in April and May and summer school for seniors who did not graduate with their class. The school will also continue their “Bulldog Buddies” peer mentorship program.
  • Lame Deer, $2,500: The team will focus on hiring a credit recovery program manager and establishing an Industrial Arts curriculum.
  • Laurel, $6,000: Laurel will host events that link career mentors with students so that they graduate with a plan and positive role model, especially focusing on juniors.
  • Livingston (Park High School), $8,800: The team will build a peer-tutoring program and a homework completion program to reduce credit deficiency.
  • Lockwood, $3,500: The team will be hosting a middle school rally, a career fair and school-wide “I Pledge to Graduate” activities, as well as grade level specific activities.
  • Sidney, $4,000: The team will begin a peer-mentoring program to help students’ high school transition from middle school. The outcomes of incorporating this program include ease-of-transition, a decrease in bullying, relationship-building, keeping at-risk students in school so they graduate and a decrease in absenteeism.
  • Wolf Point, $4,000: The team will focus on chronic absenteeism. Students with good and improved attendance will receive recognition, as well as the students with improved math and reading test scores. “At-risk” students will be paired with positive adult mentors to help achieve Graduation Matters goals.