"My motivation was my mom. She always pushed me to always go to school."
Jamia McCuller graduated from East High School last year. It was a year that drew community concern over the city school district's graduation rate of 43.4 percent.
"I believe it's unacceptable. I feel like we could do so much better and I know most definitely a lot of these kids are really smart. They just need that extra push."
McCuller joined some 300 community leaders at the Riverside Convention Center to talk about ways to improve education and boost high school graduation rates.
"Today is about communicating with each other about what we're doing, coordinating our efforts and then learning to collaborate," said Jennifer Leonard, Rochester Area Community Foundation.
One area of concern is lifting third-grade reading scores. Patrick Corvington, from the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, was the keynote speaker.
"Kids who are not reading by the third grade are much likely to not graduate from high school, so by the time they get to third grade, and beyond, they end up being behind," Corvington said.
Following the summit, community partners will prepare an action plan to help meet the campaign goal of a 90 percent high school gradutation rate by the year 2020.
Corvington says investing in kids is critical in moving them ahead and ensuring that all children have the resources they need to thrive and succeed.
"We need a generation of well-trained, well-educated high school graduates that can enter career work and the military," said Corvington.
As McCuller prepares to enter the workforce, her message to young people is simple, and one that has been repeated and heard before: Stay in school.
"If you stay in school, you'll go pass the mountains, pass the moon, pass all the stars, and you'll always be able to succeed in life."