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Heather and Mike Culbert are big supporters of the United Way’s efforts to stem the dropout rate in Calgary’s high schools.

The donors: Heather and Mike Culbert

The gift: $500,000

The cause: United Way of Calgary

The reason: To help students graduate from high school

When Heather and Mike Culbert heard about a new United Way of Calgary initiative to help young people finish high school, they wanted to do more than donate money.

The program, called All in for Youth (AIFY), launched last year and its aim is to lower the city's high-school-dropout rate, which is among the highest in the country. Roughly 3,000 students drop out every year and the goal of AIFY is to cut that in half by 2017.

"I knew it was going to be a bit of a flyer to get the needed capital," said Ms. Culbert, a former executive at Enerplus Resource Fund. "I thought it would be great if we could help set the tone."

Ms. Culbert and her husband Mike, chief executive officer of Progress Energy Canada Ltd., donated $500,000 to the cause and began speaking at events and approaching other donors to help raise $10-million.

"When people hear that we have the highest dropout rate in Canada, people are outraged," Ms. Culbert said. "We tell them this program is a win-win for Calgary and a win-win for society."

So far, 16 city high schools are now participating in AIFY and more than 1,000 mentors have signed up.

"We're excited," she added, "because this does have such an impact."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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