HELENA, Mont.-- Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau announced today that 46 communities will share $200,000 in Graduation Matters Montana Challenge Fund grants to continue the work of ensuring more students graduate prepared for college, careers or the military.

      The grants provide the building blocks for Graduation Matters Montana communities by supporting things like middle-to-high-school transition programs, peer mentoring programs, job shadow opportunities, and college readiness programs.

       “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 Juneau said. “An investment in our students is critical to the strength of our state.”
        The Challenge Fund grants are a result of a partnership among the Office of Public Instruction, the Dennis & 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.
         “Dennis and Phyllis Washington personally believe that access to a high-quality education is the single most important determinant of success in life,” Washington Foundation Executive Director Mike Halligan said. “The more we can do to support students, parents, teachers and administrators to create a 21st century learning environment that will inspire youth to stay in school and graduate, has exponential benefits to the youth and society as a whole.”
         There is a direct correlation in the number of students that graduate and the economic health of a state. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates a $6 million boost to the Montana’s economy because of the 540 more students who graduated in 2015 than in 2009.
        There are currently 58 Graduation Matters communities, and 80 percent of public high school students now attend a Graduation Matters school.
2016 Graduation Matters Montana Challenge Fund Grantees:
Anaconda: $6,000, Arlee: $4,000, Belgrade: $4,500, Billings (United Way of Yellowstone County): $6,500, Box Elder: $3,000, Brockton: $2,500, Browning: $6,500, Helena (Capital High School): $3,500, Cascade: $2,500, Colstrip: $2,500, Columbia Falls: $6,000, Crow Agency: $2,500, Miles City (Custer County High School): $5,000, Cut Bank: $2,000, Drummond: $2,500, Florence-Carlton: $3,000, Frazer: $5,000, Great Falls (United Way of Cascade County): $8,500, Gallatin County (Great Gallatin United Way): $5,000, Hamilton: $5,000, Hardin (High School): $5,250, Heart Butte: $2,500, Hot Springs: $2,500, Boulder (Jefferson High School): $4,200, Kalispell: $5,000, Lame Deer: $2,500, Laurel: $6,000, Libby: $6,000, Lincoln: $1,750, Livingston (Park High School): $8,800, Lockwood: $3,500, Missoula: $2,500, Plains: $4,000, Polson: $6,500, Poplar: $3,500, Rocky Boy: $4,500, Ronan: $6,000, Sidney: $4,000, St. Ignatius: $6,500, St. Regis: $2,500, Stevensville: $7,000, Thompson Falls: $5,000, Three Forks: $2,500, Townsend (Broadwater High School): $4,000, Troy: $3,500, Wolf Point: $4,000

Here's how local schools plan to use their grants:

Browning: $6,500
Graduation Matters Browning will be promoting tribal community colleges and more-focused campus visits so that students are not only graduating, they are graduating with a plan. Their team plans to use the Early Warning System in conjunction with a middle to high school bridge program to ensure the proper interventions are in place and student engagement is improved. Graduation Matters Browning will continue their efforts to bring in parents and the community as stakeholders.
Cut Bank: $2,000
Graduation Matters Cut Bank will continue to build community support for their efforts through a mentoring program. Their team will also match seniors and kindergarteners in school events to build the importance of attendance, graduation and student engagement.
Heart Butte: $2,500
Aiming for a 90 percent graduation rate this year, Graduation Matters Heart Butte will focus their efforts on increasing credit recovery opportunities. They will also implement a mentoring program that matches upper and lower classmen.  Heart Butte will foster strong community support of the students and their goals by pairing them with positive role models in the community who will encourage them to attend school and graduate. Heart Butte will also host a number of community events.