Today is College Signing Day and high school seniors will fill their social media timelines with #SigningSelfie photos. Usually this is a day of celebration for athletes declaring what college team they will be playing for, but thanks to the Reach Higher initiative created by first lady Michelle Obama in 2014, it has become a celebration of academic achievement. More than 700 schools are participating with their own College Signing Day and Mrs. Obama will lead the celebration at the Harlem Armory in New York City.
While College Signing Day is a great opportunity to show support for students, many schools across the country keep the programming going beyond College Signing Day. For example, Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., nurtures a college-going culture throughout the school year. Here are three things they are doing that might spark ideas at your school:
Create a “Wear Your College Gear Day”: As part of the Reach Higher initiative, the first lady asks to show your support on College Signing Day by wearing attire from your alma mater or from a local college. At Wakefield High School, their Wear Your College Gear Day is once a month event for faculty to show their support. Last week, Wakefield students also participated by representing their college choices.
Host an Alumni Day: Wakefield hosts an Alumni Day each year before the school’s winter break. Wakefield alumni visit the school to talk with students and participate in panel presentations, and they usually sport their college gear, too. One of Wakefield’s most successful Alumni Days brought alumni from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.
Target Support for Minority Students: Even though high school graduation rates are rising throughout the nation, the growth rate does not reflect equally across all ethnicities. For more than 10 years, Wakefield has used grant money to support college readiness programs for underrepresented students of diverse backgrounds. Students in these programs can meet with Wakefield alumni during campus visits, get help with the college application process, hear from guest speakers, and receive guidance and support. Wakefield also has created partnerships with higher education institutions.
Helping students to keep the end goal in mind throughout high school increases student engagement and encourages students to pursue postsecondary opportunities.