Making the world their oyster

   Glenn Hamer and Lisa Graham Keegan

                                    September 16th, 2016               

A quality education leads to more choices in life. And really, isn’t that what we all want – to choose our own life course, rather than feel resigned to a predetermined path or one with limited options?

This simple perspective gives clarity to the obligation we have to Arizona’s students. As educators, policy influencers, and community members, it’s our job to provide today’s students with the skills they need to confidently choose from a variety of meaningful life pursuits after high school. Whether trade certification, college, or a great job, turning out graduates with in-demand skills and the ability to think critically is key to ensuring the next generation contributes to our communities and the economy, and has the fullest opportunity for a rich life.

A community-based initiative – Achieve60AZ – launched today with a goal for increasing student attainment in our state. Specifically, the group of community, education, business, and philanthropic leaders has targeted an increase from 42 to 60 percent of Arizonans earning a college degree, professional certification or credential by 2030.

This is a goal the Arizona Chamber and A for Arizona can easily get behind. It fits into what we see as the responsibility our community has to its kids to make sure they are prepared for “real life” with options after graduation. This is critical. As Gov. Doug Ducey said at today’s kickoff, “in less than five years, nearly 70 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school diploma.”

We are personally committed to the belief that every student has potential to learn and excel in life. That may look different for each individual, and just as we don’t limit a student’s potential based on family income, we shouldn’t presume the same post-high school path for all our students either. What we should do, however, is make sure they are all equally prepared; that they come to the end of high school confident and ready to take next steps – whatever they may be – because we have given them the educational key that unlocks a host of options for the brightest possible future.

What’s exciting for us as leaders in the business-education nexus is how we see Arizona focusing more and more on the end game for our students. We don’t just want our kids to be successful on a test. We want them to be successful in life. That means directly tapping into the needs of today’s employers and matching those up with our current education models. By finding out what skills employers need and by preparing today’s students to receive that training, we give our kids every opportunity to be successful after graduation while simultaneously filling the talent pipeline with highly-skilled workers.  

You’ve heard the saying “the world is your oyster.” Wouldn’t it be great if that sentiment applied to every Arizona student upon graduating from high school? At the very least, it’s a great measure of success. If our students leave high school with the feeling that the world is open to them and they are ready for it, we have truly succeeded on their behalf. Let’s continue working together to make the world every child’s oyster.

For more information on Achieve60AZ, visit:

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Lisa Graham Keegan is the executive director of A for Arizona.