It was a tall order, to say the least. According to a recent study from the Houston Endowment, fewer than 22 percent of the state’s eighth graders go on to earn a higher education credential in a decade. The numbers are even lower among the state’s fast-growing minority population. In order for Texas to be economically competitive, that statistic needs to rise significantly — some say up to 60 percent.
Austin-based Milkshake Media, the company behind the ubiquitous Livestrong campaign, developed the effort that state officials hope can reverse the trend. It’s called “Generation Texas.”
Like the Livestrong campaign, which famously made yellow bracelets a fashion statement of social consciousness, the Generation Texas effort is primarily focused on leveraging peer interaction to change the values of students, families and communities. Given the limited resources at the state’s disposal, the campaign has not invested heavily in television ads or billboards.
This Friday will be the state’s second “Generation Texas Day,” in which everyone from state officials to employees of the effort’s corporate sponsors will be encouraged to wear college T-shirts. Pep rallies celebrating higher education will be held around the state, some of them featuring celebrities like NFL star Vince Young, an official spokesman of the campaign.
Three key participants in the campaign recently stopped by The Texas Tribune office for a roundtable discussion about the campaign and how they hope it could change the state.
Judy Loredo is overseeing the effort in her role as assistant commissioner of P-16 initiatives at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Susan Dawson is the executive director of E3 Alliance (E3 stands for Education Equals Economics), a collaborative organization that operates as the P-16 council for Central Texas. Pilar Westbrook is the acting principal of Del Valle High School.
The following video is an edited version of their conversation: