Mission, Vision & Values


In collaboration with community partners, Project GRAD Akron will provide a system of programs, supports, and scholarships for underrepresented students to achieve success from kindergarten through career.  


Mutual Respect; Honesty & Integrity; Teamwork & Collaboration; Passion for Excellence; Commitment to Community; Lifelong Learning Culture; and Entrepreneurial & Innovative

Equal Expectations

Project GRAD believes that every student, regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic background, not only deserves to, but should graduate from high school and have access to college. Because of this fundamental belief in the equality of expectations for every at-risk child, Project GRAD sets what might be considered by some to be lofty goals. Yet, Project GRAD’s goals are the standard for the average student who attends a school in a higher socio-economic neighborhood.

History of Project GRAD Akron

Project GRAD Akron (PGA), a non-profit educational reform program, began in the Akron Public Schools in 2002, under the leadership of now retired Superintendent Dr. Sylvester Small and many corporate, community, and business leaders.  In 2001, Dr. Small and a team of individuals (including Theresa Carter, Vivian Celeste Neal, and Oscar Williams) went to Houston, Texas to gather additional information about Project GRAD.   Later, a non-profit organization was established and members of the Board of Directors were selected and Vivian Celeste Neal became the first Board Chairperson.  The initial schools were Buchtel High School, Perkins Middle School, Crouse Elementary School, Erie Island Elementary School, Rankin Elementary School, and Schumacher Elementary School.  Mr. Joseph Coleman was selected as the organizing Director of the organization.   The organization's first Executive Director was Flora Novella Randall Dees, Ed.D., who served from 2002 to 2006.   Jacqueline Silas-Butler, Esq., has served as Executive Director since July 31, 2006. 

The current Project GRAD Akron’s schools are Buchtel Community Learning Center (grades 7-12), Crouse Community Learning Center (grades K-5), Schumacher Community Learning Center (grades K-5), Helen Arnold Community Learning Center (grades K-5), and North High School (12th grade).  Project GRAD Akron is part of a comprehensive national initiative aimed at improving the success of urban school students to academically achieve, graduate from high school, and enter and complete a college education. Project GRAD is based on the belief in the potential of every child, a focus on parents and community involvement, training and support for teachers, evidence-based approaches and a commitment to full accountability for all stakeholders. 

For 17years, Project GRAD Akron has partnered with the Akron Public Schools to positively impact the lives of students and families in the Buchtel Cluster.  The heart of the work that we do is showing the students the pathways to a successful life.  Since 2002, Project GRAD Akron has been helping students make positive transitions by programs including our Bridge to Kindergarten program in collaboration with Kent State University; our College and Career Central class; our Summer Institutes in collaboration with the University of Akron; our GRAD Mentors program; and our scholarship program.  Additionally, we have awarded nearly  $2 million in scholarships to Buchtel’s graduates.  These transition pathways are supported by so many caring people who fervently believe in our motto: “Graduation Really Achieves Dreams.”  Beginning in January of 2019,  Project GRAD Akron began providing College and Career services to students at East Community Learning Center.

Project GRAD Akron, an affiliate site of Project GRAD USA, is a member of the National College Access Network (NCAN).









Executive Directors

      Flora Randall Dees, Ed.D.                                                         Jacqueline Silas-Butler, Esq.
              2002 - 2006                                                                          2006 - Present



Project GRAD Akron (PGA), a non-profit educational reform program, began in the Akron Public Schools in 2002, under the leadership of now retired Superintendent Dr. Sylvester Small and many corporate, community, and business leaders. Project GRAD Akron is an affiliate site of Project GRAD USA, which is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

For more information about Project GRAD USA, please visit www.projectgrad.org