The Future is Bright — 2014 CSD with Mrs. Obama
By: Molly Cox, President & CEO of SA2020
Something happens right before the stadium fills up with students: the music is going, volunteers are running around, and there is an underlying excitement. This is the beginning of what is one of my favorite days of the year — College Signing Day.
San Antonio, Texas began hosting College Signing Day in 2011. In our first year, approximately 130 high school seniors were congratulated and celebrated. Last year, nearly 1,200 students committed to going on beyond high school. Students enter with their high school pals, then sit with what we hope will become their college pals. We celebrate these students with pep talks from community leaders, performances from student groups at their new schools, and of course, mascot dance-offs. I have been lucky enough to co-host College Signing Day with my pal Russell Rush since 2012. (I have been even luckier to stay in contact with a lot of the students.)
“College Signing Day was important for me. It felt good to be with other students that were all in a similar situation — all eager, nervous, and proud,” said Molly Martinez-Collins, currently a sophomore at The University of Texas at Austin.
When the wild cheering and mascot dancing winds down, we ask the students to complete this pledge:
I believe in myself and my future. I commit to enroll in college. I commit to persevere when I get there. I commit to graduate and no matter what, I commit to reach higher — for myself, for my family, and for my community.
“College Signing Day represented the moment I finally knew college was real. All I had worked up to had led to that moment,” recalled Mark Vargas, now in his final year at St. Mary’s University.
To be fair, we upgraded our pledge in 2014 when First Lady Michelle Obama came to our College Signing Day to launch her Reach Higher Campaign. (I need a moment for that last sentence, because 3 years later I still haven’t fully gotten over it.) Michelle Obama came to San Antonio to speak to our students about the significance of their achievements and encourage them to keep it up through college.
“Her words — that everyone is capable, and everyone has the power to be the change we wish to see — resonated,” said Mark. “It is definitely one of my proudest moments.”
In San Antonio, we put this event on every year because we want every kid in our city to grow up knowing that opportunity is for them and that anything is possible. We not only celebrate, but also commit to helping all of our students achieve their fullest potential. In 2010, our community came together and set a bold vision for the future: By 2020, San Antonio has orchestrated one of the greatest turnarounds in education in the United States. It continued: San Antonio provides access to quality education for all students no matter where they live in our city.
“We were not only celebrating ourselves, but celebrating literally every high schooler in the room that was committed to higher education,” remembers Kate Sanchez, who will graduate in 2019 from The University of Texas at Austin.
College Signing Day shows us what the future looks like. And at the risk of being literally the most uncool host at a College Signing Day this year for what I’m about to write, here’s what I know: the future is bright, y’all. Put on your shades.
We’re counting down to May 5th by launching a College Signing Day blog series! Over the next two weeks we’ll highlight stories written by students who have participated in a college signing day celebration and what it meant to them. We’ll also feature stories from school counselors, teachers, districts and states who have celebrated College Signing Day and the impact it’s had on their schools and communities.
Check back each day for a new story leading up to May 5th! #BetterMakeRoom #ReachHigher