Michigan Education Association

Kalamazoo Central High School Wins Commencement Challenge

National winner selected by President Obama for commencement speech

May 3, 2010 - WASHINGTON – The White House and the Department of Education today announced Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as the winner of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. President Obama will travel to Kalamazoo to deliver the school’s commencement address. More details on the President’s visit will be released as they become available.

“I congratulate our winner, Kalamazoo Central High School, and all of our six finalists for their innovative and effective approaches to teaching, learning and preparing students to graduate ready for college and a career,” said President Obama.  “I look forward to visiting and speaking at Kalamazoo Central High School later this spring.”    

“The extraordinary applications we received in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge are a true testament to the great work happening in high school across the country,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who announced the winner in a video released this morning.    “Congratulations to everyone at Kalamazoo Central High for setting high standards and ensuring students graduate and go on to succeed in college.  I look forward to joining the President at their commencement.”

Kalamazoo Central High School was one of over 1,000 applications narrowed down by the White House and Department of Education to six high school finalists. Between April 26th and April 29th, over 170,000 people weighed in on short videos and essays from the six finalists. President Obama selected Kalamazoo Central High School as the national winner from the three high schools with the highest average public ratings.

Like each of the finalists, Kalamazoo Central goes the extra mile to provide its diverse student body the support they need to succeed in school, attend college, and go on to promising careers.  More than 80 percent of the school’s students graduate, and last year the school made its adequate yearly progress goals for the first time in several years for all student groups.  While in school, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of creative programs, such as theme-based schools to improve themselves and support their community.  In addition, the “Kalamazoo Promise” - a pledge to pay the college tuition costs for Kalamazoo Central graduates, funded by anonymous donors – embodies a true community commitment to encourage every student to graduate from high school college- and career-ready.

In recognition of the extraordinary achievements and outstanding efforts by each of the six finalists, the Obama Administration will work to provide a Cabinet secretary or senior administration official to deliver the commencement address at each of the five schools not selected as the national winner.

The Commencement Challenge, launched in late February, invited the nation’s public high schools to submit applications showing their dedication to providing students with an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Applications were judged based on the schools’ performance, four essay questions and supplemental data. The six finalists were selected for their dedication to academic excellence and for showing how they are helping prepare students to graduate college and career ready, and prepared to meet the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.