Kalamazoo Central High School Wins Obama’s Commencement Challenge

May 4, 2010 12:47pm

ABC News' Mary Bruce and Sunlen Miller Report: Students at Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan got an early graduation present today when it was announced that President Obama will deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010.

As the winner of the "Race To The Top" Commencement Challenge, Kalamazoo Central was chosen from over a thousand applicants.

“I have promised to speak at a high school commencement every year to highlight schools that are encouraging excellence and preparing their students for college and careers,” President Obama said this afternoon in remarks at the Business Council’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Obama also gave a shout out to the high school’s mascot. “Go Giants,” he added and said he’s looking forward to talking to the young people at the commencement.

More than 80 percent of Kalamazoo Central’s students graduate, and last year the school made its "adequate yearly progress" goals for the first time in several years for all student groups.  While in school, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of creative programs, such as theme-based schools to improve themselves and support their community.  In addition, the school has a program, “Kalamazoo Promise,” which pledges to pay the college tuition costs for Kalamazoo Central graduates, funded by anonymous donors.

Obama personally chose Kalamazoo Central as the winner from a list of three finalists. Over 170,000 people voted online between April 26th and April 29th to narrow down the original six finalists.

The finalists were selected for their dedication to academic excellence and for showing how they are helping students to graduate college and career ready.

“The extraordinary applications we received in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge are a true testament to the great work happening in high school across the country,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Duncan announced the winner in a video released this morning.

Details of the commencement address, including the date, will be released in the near future. In addition, the administration is working to provide a Cabinet secretary or senior administration official to deliver the commencement address at each of the other five finalist schools.

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