Gretchen Wilson and Dollar General Stand Up for Education
By Bob Doerschuk
© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
With all that Gretchen Wilson has accomplished, why would this former high-school dropout bother to earn a GED? “I wanted to do it for myself but also for my daughter Grace,” the CMA Awards winner and multi-Platinum artist explained. “I didn’t want her to think, ‘Look at everything my mom accomplished without having an education.’ I wanted her to understand that an education is worth more than it ever has been.”
Wilson’s commitment grew to include the public at large after she finished her General Education Development studies. She even joined Bernadine Nelson, who had helped her get started on her GED, on a trip to Washington, D.C., where they lobbied Tennessee legislators to fund adult education in Tennessee. Wilson joined Dollar General Corporation, one of the best-known corporate advocates of adult literacy, in testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education.
“Dollar General has a long legacy of supporting literacy. Our co-founder, J. L. Turner, was functionally illiterate when he started the company,” said Denine Torr, Director of Community Initiatives, Dollar General. “We understand there are many circumstances that may prevent a person from learning to read or earning a high school diploma. Regardless of the circumstances, our goal is to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to realize their dreams.”
Both sides recognized the other as an ideal partner in pursuing their goal. “We all get to a point where we put our faces and names behind something,” Wilson said. “Do we put it behind Reebok for the check, or do we put it behind something that means something and might make a difference? My fans, my friends and my family all shop at Dollar General, and working together we could reach a lot of people.”
Wilson partnered with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and the Advertising Council to launch a national public service advertising campaign to provide high school dropouts with access to information that could get them started on the road to a GED diploma. They issued television, radio, print, outdoor and online ads. To spread the message even further, Wilson screened the PSA at her concerts, and, in selected markets, joined with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to give free concert tickets to nonprofit literacy providers and graduating GED students. Additionally, Dollar General partnered with Lysol and Airwick brands to feature Wilson in their “Literacy Rocks” promotion in more than 9,000 DG stores. The promotion raised $250,000 for the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
“That was our way of bringing them into the store and getting them excited,” Wilson explained. “That’s how we got them to see the banners about literacy, take literature home with them, drive them to the Web site and get them talking about it.”
“Gretchen is very real, down-to-earth and approachable,” said Torr. “You can tell somebody what they should do, or you can tell somebody what you’ve done and how they can do it too. Gretchen has been in their shoes, so you can feel the truth in her message.”
On the Web: www.GretchenWilson.com; www.DollarGeneral.com; www.YourGED.org