PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -The Pittsburgh Promise has helped hundreds of local students go to college.

Today, an annual report on the program was released to the community.

One of the big positives to come from the report was an increase in high school graduation rates.

Students from Pittsburgh Public Schools kicked off today’s event at the New Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District.

“For many kids, the Promise is the only way that they can pursue post-secondary education. We talk to our kids about having big dreams and working hard to achieve them, but for many of them, the big dream and the hard work only hits a brick wall,” Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril said.

That’s where the Promise comes in.

Since it was launched seven years ago, 5,100 students have received more than $49 million in scholarships.

That’s not all.

Students are succeeding thanks to the Promise.

This year, one of the highlights of the annual report is an increase in the graduation rates for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The rates have gone from 65 percent in 2009 to 71 percent for the Class of 2014.

“It’s movement in the right direction. It’s by no means movement that is far enough, so we have a lot of work to do there, but we are delighted by the growth and really we’re delighted by the fact that the majority of that growth in graduation rates came because of the performance of African-American students,” Ghubril said.

Graduation rates will continue to be a key focus in the coming years.

Other highlights show that Promise students are achieving success in college and graduating. Many are also finding jobs in Pittsburgh.

Shakir Wellons, 22, graduated from Pittsburgh Oliver High School and is set to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in December.

“The Promise gave me an opportunity to actually go to school and not have to worry about an unbelievable amount of debt that I would have to pay back for the rest of my life,” Wellons said.

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