American Graduate Day was hosted nationally on Oct. 3, and Amarillo’s Panhandle PBS station was present and accounted for in supporting students on the path to graduation. In addition to the national coverage of American Graduate Day, Panhandle PBS was successful in securing a competitive grant that allowed the station to “offer local engagement around American Graduate – Let’s Make It Happen,” said Cullen Lutz, community engagement specialist at Panhandle PBS. A live webcast titled “‘Stories of Champions” was hosted by the station Sept. 29 at the Gilvin Broadcasting Center, where Panhandle PBS highlighted four education champions from the Amarillo community. The streaming event featured Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year; Tim Bryant, Amarillo Independent School District Secondary Teacher of the Year; Dr. Mike Bellah, an Amarillo College English professor and founder of the Finishers club; and Pat Mullin, English as a second language program coordinator. Lynne Groom, development and community services representative for Panhandle PBS, said the four people were spotlighted in the webcast because collectively, they run the gamut of focus areas in education. “You’ve got a middle school teacher (Tim Bryant), you’ve got a high school teacher (Shanna Peeples), you’ve got Pat Mullins from the library, who teaches ESL, and you’ve got Dr. Mike Bellah from Amarillo College,” she said. The event was moderated by Panhandle PBS CEO Ellen Green, who emphasized the importance of American Graduate. “American Graduate is really all about talking about the importance and focusing on the importance of everyone getting an education,” not only high school but beyond, “and what that means for individuals and for our country,” Green said. The interactive event was attended by local members of the community that included Panhandle PBS Advisory Council members, students and faculty from AC, Region 16 Education Service Center employees, members of Amarillo ISD and Canyon ISD and other local education partners. Each champion educator spoke on their individual experiences in keeping students on the path to graduation and participated in a live question-and-answer segment that included questions from the live audience and from online viewers. Online viewers were able to submit questions via Twitter with #PanhandleGrad, where the questions were relayed to the educators. The webcast presented by Panhandle PBS was an idea thought to be especially exciting in that it would enable viewers anywhere across the nation to “have an interactive opportunity to submit questions, feedback and be a live part of the conversation,” Lutz said. Panhandle PBS was one of fewer than 40 stations around the country and one of only four in Texas able to conduct such community engagement opportunities surrounding American Graduate.The goal for American Graduate Day was to broaden awareness about the importance of education and Panhandle PBS showcased a positive spotlight on individuals and organizations who work hard for the Amarillo community.Education is the key pillar of why Panhandle PBS exists and why it has an “ongoing commitment from this station, from PBS nationally and from PBS stations across the country” to share tools and messages from educators at all levels, Groom said. Anyone who want to view the archived webcast can go to www.panhandlepbs.org/community/american-graduate/. Those interested in more information about “American Graduate – Let’s Make It Happen” can go to www.americangraduate.org for more information about the campaign.