Obama at Kalamazoo Central High School: How did it win the honor?
Kalamazoo Central High School beat out more than 1,000 applicants to win the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Obama delivers the school's graduation speech Monday night.
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This is an urban school in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in America. At K-Central, there have been big gaps between the enrollment of students in their freshman year and their graduation rates. Not too long ago, crime-related stories seemed to grab as many headlines as those about learning achievements and sports victories.
But in recent years, the academic improvement in Kalamazoo has been notable. For one thing, since 2006, 91 percent of K-Central graduates have gone to college for at least one semester. Key to that achievement has been an innovative program called the Kalamazoo Promise.
The president himself picked K-Central from six finalists, which included two magnet schools, two charter schools, and a suburban public school.
While senior Kathryn Dugal originally thought that Obama’s presence could hijack graduation, she now sees it as a community event that will become an indelible memory.
A lot of adults “don’t even remember their high school graduation. It was a steppingstone,” says Kathryn, who will study at Michigan State University in East Lansing in the fall. “This does make it special.”
In November 2005, “this little thing called the Kalamazoo Promise” was announced, as one Kalamazoo Public Schools administrator understatedly described it.
The Promise pledges scholarship money to students graduating from KPS for in-state colleges and universities. It’s a gift from anonymous donors.
The fall following the Promise announcement, the class of 2010 entered high school. Unlike their predecessors, they had four years to absorb the idea that hard work and the right classes could aid their passage into college – a place unknown to many families. More than half of the student population is considered low-income.