Mirroring the hoopla over athletics, Thursday’s event at the R.I. State House celebrates young scholars and gives them a financial boost as they announce where they’ll attend college.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than 60 soon-to-graduate high school seniors in matching blue T-shirts sat on marble stairs leading up to the Senate Chamber in the Rhode Island State House Rotunda Thursday.
Gov. Gina Raimondo squeezed in among them and posed for a group shot just before the College Signing Day 2018 program began.
“This is a big deal,” Ken Wagner, Rhode Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education, told the students.
Designed to mimic the hoopla that high school athletes get when they commit to a university, the event brought in dignitaries to celebrate them, speakers to inspire them, and a few gifts, which amounted to a blue T-shirt, a duffel bag and their choice of a blue- or white-frosted cupcake.
There were no new cars and no big signing bonuses, but each student will get a College Crusade scholarship that ranges from $1,500 to $4,500 a year. The money can be used for expenses related to higher education, not just tuition and books but also transportation and child care, if needed.
The students are from five Rhode Island low-income communities. Starting in sixth grade, College Crusade has guided them to graduate from high school, connected them with extra support and helped them get accepted into college and find financial aid.
Years ago, students in these communities, especially the ones eligible for free school lunches, which was the eligibility requirement to enter College Crusade, might never have dreamed that college was within their reach.
But College Crusade’s goal for 29 years has been to get students striving for their education. And former First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal has been to inspire every student in the U.S. to get an education past high school.
In the keynote address, Rich Norris, a guidance counselor at Jorge Alvarez High School in Providence, urged the students to become lawyers and judges, doctors and business leaders, and reminded them it would get harder: “The higher I go in this world, the less and less people look like me,” he said.
“If you don’t get an education, it keeps you from getting into positions of power and prestige,” he said. He concluded by telling the students they were going to be something.
Dorbor Tarley, a student at Classical High School in Providence, told the gathering that she had “a front row seat watching my mother struggling to get her college education.” She learned “the habit of keeping my summers busy and productive,” she said. Already she is a leader in her community, through activities like NAACP and the Providence Student Union.
After the ceremony, the students did sign something, a College Crusade banner. Beside their name, they wrote the name of their chosen college.
Angiley Merced, 18, who goes to Cranston East, said she will study engineering at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus. She took courage from Norris, she said, about thriving in the diversity she brings. “I’m a woman going into technology,” she said, “Plus, I’m Spanish.”
Luis Angel, 17, of Pawtucket, and Miguel Chaparro, 17, of Central Falls, are classmates at Davies Career and Technical High School, and both want to attend Johnson & Wales University. Angel is going for electronic engineering, he said, and Chaparro, 17, plans to meet his general education requirements at the Community College of Rhode Island (Lincoln campus) in hopes of transferring into J&W’s culinary program.
Angel said his mother moved from Puerto Rico to Rhode Island so he could get a better education.
Chaparro said his takeaway from the event was: “Try to reach higher than your parents did.”
On Twitter: @donita22
Published at Fri, 04 May 2018 02:04:22 +0000