The District conducted its second annual Academic Signing Day in tribute to scholars who have been accepted at top-tier colleges and universities, as defined by Barron’s Guide.
Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon saluted 288 seniors, 15 percent of the senior class, in a conference hall at the Barbara Byrd-Bennett Professional Development Center in Bratenahl. And that is not a complete total, only those who whose schools sent in RSVPs for the event.
The CEO said the ceremony recognized the students’ hard work. He also told the seniors arrayed in front of him that he came from a rural background and was not expected to attend college, let alone become the first in his family to finish and go on to head a large school system.
“It was my chance. I wanted to be a teacher, that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “Set your sights on whatever your long goal may be.”
Chief Academic Officer Michelle Pierre-Farid echoed Gordon’s remarks, telling the students that college is just another step in reaching their destinations. She urged them to eventually return to Cleveland and “take our city to the next level.”
The signing ceremony is part of Cleveland Goes to College, a five-year-old initiative that points students to possibilities beyond high school.
The District, from Gordon on down, stresses the importance of postsecondary education, whether it be technical training or two-year or four-year college.
The campaign is showing results -- the number of seniors honored Wednesday was up more than 150 from last year. Karen Thompson said that over the last five years, she also has seen a dramatic increase in how far students are willing to travel to find the institution that best fits their needs.
Representatives of several colleges and universities in the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland were on hand for the ceremony. Mayor Frank Jackson formed the compact to help city students further their education.
Clarissa Russell, manager of regional admissions at Eastern Michigan University, said attractive scholarship packages for CMSD students have increased the number enrolling at EMU from seven in 2011 to 49 last year. Russell, a CMSD graduate, also spoke at the ceremony, urging the seniors to enjoy the moment, then “gear up and get ready” for what’s ahead.
One by one Wednesday, students descended the aisles to accept Pierre-Farid’s congratulations and peel their college’s or university’s pennant from a wall for signing. Classmates voiced approval as names, schools of choice and courses of study were announced.
Emmanuel Patterson, who is soon to graduate from the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine at the John Hay Campus, will enter Cleveland State University and hopes to eventually become a radiologist. He said he was inspired after his mother suffered a spinal fracture.
“I want to be able to help her in better ways than I can now,” he said.
Kyle Stacey, who will graduate from MC2STEM High School, is also going to Cleveland State, to study mechanical engineering. He said he will probably set up his own research and development and engineering consulting firm.
John Marshall senior Erin Grant will study nursing at Kent State but before embarking on her career intends to perform charity work, perhaps distributing desperately needed medical supplies in other countries. She hasn’t decided which nursing specialty she will choose but is leaning toward working in an emergency room.
“I like the rush and excitement of the ER,” she said.