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Advocating for education

Ben Goldstein on Friday, February 2, 2018 at 11:13:00 am

The EdUp campaign was launched in 2013 by the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with leaders from the business and education communities. The campaign, which began as an advocacy effort to preserve funding levels to Fall River Public Schools, has since grown into a multi-year marketing push to promote the importance of education in southeastern Massachusetts.

“At its most basic, EdUp is about changing the mindset of the community,” said Rob Mellion, president and CEO of the Bristol County Chamber. “We knew we needed to get people to value education attainment if we wanted to stand a chance at turning around our school system.”

As part of the campaign, the chamber launched an aggressive marketing drive. Some of the tactics used include billboards, editorials drafted by community members and a special “EdUp Bus,” which is used for mobile ad space.

There’s also “College Day,” an annual event in which students and their parents spend a full day engaged in activities designed to get them thinking about practical ways to attend college. In addition, the education committee zeroed in on early childhood education through “parent nights,” which help parents understand how to navigate Pre-K and kindergarten on behalf of their children.

More recently, the campaign organized a summit on social and emotional learning, a specialized training that teachers had requested. During the summit, more than 220 teachers attended a mix of 40 workshops focused on supporting students’ emotional health, social skills and academic achievement.

“We have more students getting higher grades and going to college than ever before,” explained Mellion. “We used to have a 55 percent high school dropout rate; now, we have an 80 percent graduation rate. I’m proud of the work this chamber and the business community has done.”

Mellion says EdUp has lots on the agenda for 2018, like advocating for a new, $300 million high school in Fall River, adding college-level courses to area high schools and forging new partnerships with educators and nonprofits to advance its agenda.

“We’re not done with the job of changing the mindset here in the community,” he said. “We want to bring our graduation rate higher, and we want to expand this to be more of a regional campaign, affecting the entire southeastern region.”

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