Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Grady Talks Program for 2011-2012

Today, Liz Lieberman and Dave Walker worked with 14 Grady High students. This small group was hand-picked by one of the Grady academy heads.   Liz and Dave are providing career counseling with these kids on a monthly basis.

   In September, we'll begin the program of bringing in a total of 18 business leaders.  Liz and these speakers will present to two Grady classes and try to connect high school education with getting a meaningful and prosperous career.

Also this year, Liz will hold monthly "Lunch and Learn" sessions at the school's career center.

Planning your career?  Here is a great resource that we found which lays out 26 career pathways into 6 focus Areas:

  1. Applied Arts and Communications
  2. Business & Management
  3. Health Services
  4. Human Services
  5. Industrial & Engineering Systems
  6. Natural Resource Systems 

Here is a quote from the new Atlanta Public School Superintendent, Erroll Davis:

"What we have found out is that while students drop out in high school, the decision to drop out is often made in middle school."

Monday, August 29, 2011


Check out !

We are proud to announce the launch of our new website.  Now you'll be able to keep up with our fledgling non-profit organization.  Check out our Board of Directors (For Talk About Your Future, Inc.) our Sponsors and Donors, our Speakers, our Video Gallery (and Part 2), our Calendar of Events (okay, it's coming soon).

Speaking of donors, we've also added a Donate Now button!  Please consider supporting our efforts and add your name to our list. 

So now you can find us at, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Vimeo, Four Square, and You Tube.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grady Talks and Graduation Rates

Grady Talks is a growing group of Atlanta business professionals who are committed to helping high school students get career-focused.  Some  have suggested that getting career-focused may increase a student's chance of finishing school.
Along the way we learned about the problem of high dropout rates, especially among minority students.   We read that the leading cause of dropping out is the feeling that "Classes are Not Interesting."  And, we've heard frustration that there has been no consistency in the way numbers are reported.

Here are were things are in Georgia.  We found that there are three common ways to compute graduation rates.

Georgia used the lever rate to calculate the numbers and the Governor has praised the 80.8% rate released last October.  But now, the state has changed their reporting method to be consistant with other states and some fear the new graduation rate will not look as favorable.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grady Talks Speakers Schedule Set!

Our top focus at Grady Talks is to get business professionals in front of students, sharing lessons they learned on the job.  We want to get kids career-focused.   A week after getting the class schedule, 17 people have stepped up and volunteered to ignite the dreams of young people in Atlanta.  Congratulations to Liz for finding great speakers! Do you think it may be time to expand the program?

  • September 15, 2011 - Joy Goodman - Founder - Express Yourself with Joy
  • September 16 - Jae Brown - CDC - Emergency Management Specialist, Centers for Disease Control
  • October 13 Jeff Johnson - Emmy Award Winning On-Air Talent/President/Executive Producer at JJE Inc.
  • October 14 Lawrence Toner - VP Operations/Project Services/Productions at Turner Broadcasting
  • November 10 Amani Channel - Sr. Producer at KEF Media Associates
  • November 11 Don Walter - Principal at Walter Shefer Group
  • December 8  Carrie Whitney - Independent PR Consultant
  • December 9 Arnold Evans  -Managing Director at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey
  • January 5, 2011 Jeff Reeves - Author and Human Resources Executive
  • January 6 Edwin Link - Director of Program Management, Young Audiences, Woodruff Arts Center
  • February 2 - Tonya Freeman - Education Specialist - Centers for Disease Control 
  • February 3 - Suzy Blough - International Educator 
  • March 1 - Kim Kurtis - Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Tech
  • March 2 Paul Snyder - VIce President, Corporate Responsibility and Public Affairs for the Americas, Intercontinental Hotels Group
  • March 28 Denis Brosnan - CEO Prommis Solutions
  • April  26 - LaShawn Cartwright - Senior Recruitment Consultant, Chick-Fil-A
  • April 27 - Greg O'Donnell recent UGA grad, Grady Grad - Interning until March with ECOLAND in Beijing
Please consider getting involved by either offering to speak, getting on a committee, or making a donation. Contact us at or

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Who Shares our Mission to Get Kids Career-Focused and Reduce Dropout Rates?

Grady Talks is about helping kids get on a meaningful career path and stay in school.   Who else in Georgia is doing the same thing?

We found this group,  Communities In Schools of Georgia, who's mission states that "Every Child Needs and Deserves: -A personal, one-on-one relationship with a caring adult -A safe place to learn and grow -A healthy start and a healthy future -A marketable skill to use upon graduation -A chance to give back".

The national organization, Communities In Schools, says they are "the United States' largest dropout prevention organization".
Another group, The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation,  says they are "helping to reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate in communities across the United States".

Do you know any other organizations who focus on high school student achievement?

We were able to find some recent data  from Georgia Department of Education about gradution rates at Grady and Atlanta Public Schools.  Grady seemed to have done well in 2010 with a 91.6% graduation rate.     

A closer look at the chart below reveals why the APS rate is down at 63.3%.   It seems that troubled students often transfer to another school before graduation and thus don't get scored against the school's graduation rate.

Stats from 2009-2010 School Year:

School Name Graduation Class Size Graduation Rate
Early College High School at Carver 65 98.5
South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science 52 82.7
Mays High School 321 90.3
Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. High School 192 80.2
North Atlanta High School 235 85.1
Tech High School 55 89.1
South Atlanta Law and Social Justice School 50 84.0
School of Technology at Carver 71 97.2
School of Health Sciences and Research at Carver 102 87.3
South Atlanta School of Computer Animation and Design 50 84.0
The School of the Arts at Carver 70 98.6
Therrell School of Law, Government and Public Policy 67 68.7
Therrell School of Engineering, Math, and Science 65 73.8
Therrell School of Health and Science 64 64.1
Crim High School 694 12.8
Douglass High School 336 77.7
Grady High School 322 91.6
Washington High School Senior Academy 283 81.6
All Schools 3201 66.3

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Does Gaining a "Career Focus" Help Reduce Dropout Rates?

When Liz Lieberman started Grady Talks, she wanted to try out her theory that kids who have a meaningful career plan would be happier later in life.  What we heard at a Grady Talks planning meeting on July 9th, 2010, was many people feel that giving students a "career focus" will help kids stay in school.  Do you think there may be a connection?

 We've discovered that the Gates Foundation has some evidence to support the connection.  In their report called,  The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts,  they asked dropouts, "What Might Help Students Stay in School"?   The #1 answer that four out five dropouts said was, "Students need to see the connection between school and getting a good job". The top reason dropouts say they left school is because they were bored.

According to ETS, the group who publish The Nations Report Card,  "Helping students plan their careers and make occupational choices may well help them decide to stay in school and graduate".

Also, The National Associating of Secondary School Principals recommends that every high school student have a mentor, or "Personal Adult Advocate," to help personalize the education experience.

Grady Talks helps students get career-focused and gives them the ability to build mentor relationships with business professionals. 

We've seen the challenge of fighting boredom as some kids have their heads on their desk right from the start.  Yet, you can feel the excitement as students get engaged and ask good questions. 

Currently, we videotape as many lectures as we can afford.  Please help us by becoming a speaker, making a donation, or volunteering with our organization.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Would Your Company Like to Help Lower Dropout Rates in Atlanta?

We believe that if high school students get interested in a career path and can keep out of trouble, more kids will have the drive to finish school and maybe even go on to college. 

Our solution?  Get real business leaders in front of high school kids and tell teach them the lessons that have taken lifetimes of experience to learn.  That's what we are doing at the The Grady Talks program at Grady High School in Atlanta.

For example,  last year students heard these messages:

Would your company support our mission and let you go back to high school and speak about your career?  This week we are scheduling the 18 lecture slots in the school calendar.

Please contact and book a speaking spot at Grady High School this Fall.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Grady Talks doing for the 2011-2012 School Year?

Have you ever met a high school student who doesn't have an idea what they want to be when they grow up?  According to a recent NPR News special, boredom and pregnancy are the top reasons kids drop out of school.   Also, we've found that some students do have a solid direction, but have no idea the pathway to achieving their dream.   

Grady Talks is an organization of business leaders who want to share their stories in the hope of inspiring high school students to get on a meaningful career path.  Thus far, over 2 dozen Grady Talks speakers have presented their advice and inspiration to Grady students.  We've recorded each talk for you to view and freely share at:

In the next couple of weeks, we'll begin to schedule the speakers for 18 new talks for the coming school year.  Our hope is to videotape as many of these talks as we can afford.

We've also scheduled 18 classes on "career-pathing",  8 lunchtime mini-talks in the school's career center,  and monthly coaching for a dozen students hand-picked by one the Grady Academy leaders.  

If you would like to be a speaker or get involved in one of our committees, please contact

If you have a life story that you thinks students should hear, you can make a comment on this post!

Please follow and "Like" us on Facebook at:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Denis Brosnan: Pay It Forward

Denis Brosnan, CEO of Prommis Solutions, Inc.,  tells  students at Atlanta's Grady High School the secret of how we rise up step by step in our lives and how you can help others climb up the ladder of success.

Denis says that whatever success he's had in his life has a lot to do with self-confidence. He explains that whatever your challenge may be, confidence helps you achieve it. Confidence allows you to accomplish your goals.
He explains that words have power, if you tell yourself that you can do, you can. Also, perception counts, if you walk around upset or angry, no will want to be around you. Finally, he reminds students that success is incremental, you have to believe that you can do things, and then go one step at a time.

Here's an excerpt:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jeff Reeves: On Not Being a Knucklehead

On Claudio Sanchez's NPR piece about dropouts,  Claudio mentions that pregnancy is the leading reason girls drop out from high school.  Why do you think boys drop out an even greater rate?

Recently, as part of Grady Talks, Jeff Reeves, former Seattle Seahawks football player, business executive, and author of The Art of Branding Yourself: How to Advance your Career Quickly talked to a group of high school students about their future.

Jeff tells Grady High School students not let other define who they are. He talks about responsibility, making good choices and building your brand.

Here's an exerpt:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jae Brown: Second Chances

One of our favorite moments last year was when Jae Brown, CDC Emergency Management Specialist, told a class of students at Grady High School a story of getting pulled over by the police while he was in college.  The event changed his life forever.  How easily his life could have turned out differently if he hadn't taken the second chance he was given.

Have you ever been given a chance to change your life?  Did you take it?  I know I did!  Wait till you hear the advice that cop gave a young Jae Brown.

Here's a 3 and a half minute expert of Jae's talk:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jeff "JJ" Johnson: Dealing with Not Being the Best

When Atlanta TV Personality,  Jeff "JJ" Johnson spoke to the entire new 9th grade class at Grady High School last week for Grady Talks, he asked, Who is making you who you are?   He says the answer is basic.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dave Walker: What's the best and worst thing about high school graduation?

When Atlanta business attorney,  Dave Walker spoke to the new 9th grade class at Grady High School last week, he asked, What's the best and the worst thing about graduating from high school?   He suggests that the longer you stay in school, the older and wiser  you'll be before you have to compete with even older people who are trying to answer the same question as you, "how are you going to put money into your bank account"? 

Here's little clip from his presentation:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dave Walker and Jeff Johnson Inspire Grady High 9th Graders

Do you remember your first day at High School?  For me, 9th grade didn't come easy as the "Apathy Class", as we were soon to be called, lacked direction and inspiration.

The new ninth graders at Grady High School are certainly more fortunate that I was.  Today, two members of the Grady Talks Project, Dave Walker and Jeff "JJ" Johnson delivered inspirational talks to a packed auditorium of new students.  They talked to the kids about their future and challenged them to think about the day when they will be responsible for themselves.    Dave challenged the student to take a serious interest in their finances and JJ shared his endless enthusiasm and optimism.

To see the video of the talk, go here:

From where you are now in your career, what message would you want new ninth graders to hear?  Did you know that 9th grade is the most common year when students drop out of school?   Any idea why?

Dave Walker and Jeff Johnson Talk to Grady High 9th Graders from Grady Talks on Vimeo.

Aug. 5th, 2011

On new student orientation day at Grady High School in Atlanta, business attorney David Walker and TV Personality Jeff "JJ" Johnson address the new freshman class. They offer words of encouragement and talk about personal responsibility. They spoke on behalf of Grady Talks, Liz Liebemran's organization that provides students with career advice from business professional..

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jeff Johnson to Deliver the Grady Talks Opening Address Friday

Yesterday, Liz got an email from one of the senior people at Grady High School, looking for a a last minute speaker for freshman orientation day.  The email came in while she happened to be on the phone with Atlanta TV personality Jeff Johnson, who instantly said "yes" he'd do it.  She and I are pretty proud of our start up organization, Grady Talks! Have you ever been able to solve a problem that quickly?

So now, Grady Talks will be providing the motivational speaker for the new student orientation Friday August 5th, at Grady High School and I'll get to video tape this one and post in online.

Want to see last years kick-off talk by basketball legend, Chris Webber?  Follow this link:

Liz has a bunch of business professionals lined up to deliver talks to a class this Fall at Grady.  They will be telling stories from their work experiances and help the kid get focused on a successful career.

Interested in talking to a class of 30 high school kids about the lessons that you have learned?  I'm sure Liz would love to talk with you about it.  Say, what's the biggest lesson that you've learned while on the job?  For me, it's that if you put together a team, you have a better chance of getting what you are looking for.

Here are some excerpts from Jeff's talk  last school year:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grady Talks Video Assets

As part of the project to inspire kids to stay in school and get on a meaningful career path, we've developed a library of one-hour videos.  The archive of talks are currently being presented and streamed at, a service of Public Broadcasting Atlanta in association with PBS and NPR.

As we are launching the new Grady Talks website (coming soon), the library of talks is being moved to and is currently available at:

We'd love to know what you think.  Do you think that providing inspiring talks by business professionals will help reduce dropout rates?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Grady Talks Blog

Today we begin the Grady Talks Blog.  Grady Talks is a non-profit organization dedicated to linking business professionals with high school students in order to help young people start out on a meaningful career path.  It's also a great way to make education a priority and stay in school.

What if it were easy to tell your inspiring business story to a high school class?  What if you could help change the lives of 30 kids in just one hour?  What if every high school in the country had a chapter of Grady Talks and a coordinator you could call to schedule a your talk?  What if it was just that simple to make a positive impact on young people.   In Atlanta, it is!