Futures Students Look To Their Future

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW) - College is the dream of many fourth graders at Futures Academy in Buffalo.

"I really do want to go to college. I want to get an education, and when I grow up I want to be a teacher," Student Makiya Nelson said.

Currently, the high school graduation rate in the Buffalo Public School system is only 47 percent. That is why politicians, community leaders, educators, and parents have stepped in for a new program called "GradsUp 2020".

"How do we focus on making sure that the graduation rates are improved? My staff member says fourth graders are the class of 2020, why don't we focus on fourth graders," Western New York Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said.

The goal of this program is not just to improve the graduation rate, they hope that 100 percent of all students in the class of 2020 will get their diplomas.

They hope to do it with some help. They are getting community groups involved with the students, and recruiting Buffalo Public School alumni to also participate. They are encouraging those people to commit to be a substitute teacher, following the fourth graders all the way through high school careers. Leaders of the program also want to raise enough money to send all of the class of 2020 to college at no cost.

"With all the people joining or jumping in, and the examples of the people that are coming as role models are great, because they can see what they are able to achieve," Teacher Katherine Billanti said.

Student Shakeem Cooper loves the idea.

"It's very important that I graduate from high school because I want to go to college so I can get a job and support my family," Cooper said.

This program comes in the wake of the signing of the SUNY 2020 program last year. The goal is to help make more successful students, and a better city.

"UB 2020, GradsUp 2020, it is really Buffalo 2020 and we all know that," Buffalo Public School Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon said.