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New report highlights US high school graduation rates

A new report shows the U.S. high school graduation rate is on track to reach President Obama’s goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020.

A new report from America’s Promise, an education advocacy group, shows the U.S. high school graduation rate has risen to a record high of 81.4%, putting the nation on track to reach President Obama’s goal of a 90% graduation rate by 2020.

But while the graduation rate has "increased by ten percentage points over the last decade," according to America's Promise President and CEO John Gomperts, there is still significant work to be done in order to solve the disparities that exist in the educational system. On msnbc Wednesday, Gomperts told Andrea Mitchell that graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic students were still low, and that one of the solutions is to focus attention on those students who feel neglected at home or at school.

Lashon Amado, who joined Gomperts along with his sister Ryanna Thomas on msnbc, echoed Gomperts' concerns, saying that he was dealing with personal issues at home while also feeling he wasn't being challenged in the public school system. Amado says he was able to overcome those adversities with the help of adults, who mentored him in youth programs.

“While in a program, called YouthBuild, I was encountered with many caring adults,” Amado said. “Because I felt like they cared about me, I was able to open up, and in the meantime I also got to earn my GED. I was able to get some job training by building low-income homes for low-income families, and they also helped me develop my leadership skills, which propelled me on a path to graduating.”

Ryanna Thomas, Amado’s sister, says she witnessed his transformation and was inspired. Her advice to current students? “Once you have an education, no one can take it away from you.”

Thomas and Amado also spoke about the importance of offering alternatives to violence, saying that some youth don’t recognize the importance of education. “The youth need to realize that education is truly the key out of poverty,” Amado said, adding that education can allow young people an outlet to realize their full potential.

On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed violence in public schools during a commencement address at King College Prep High School in Chicago’s South Side. As part of her speech, the first lady honored the life of Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student who was fatally shot in 2013, a week after she had performed at an event to celebrate President Obama’s inauguration. Pendleton would have been a member of King College Prep's Class of 2015.