"I'm looking for the school that's doing the best job of preparing students for college and careers." With these words, President Obama, today, set in motion a nationwide challenge for some of our nation's best and brightest high school students to apply for the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. Last year, over 1,000 schools submitted entries but few if any of those schools were from the Chicago area. This year, U. S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) hopes to change that by working aggressively to ensure that every public high school within his 1st Congressional District is aware that the challenge is underway and that interested students, their parents and teachers get fully engaged in this competitive enrichment process.
"The public school children throughout my district face challenges on many fronts, from the potential for school-related violence to the constant specter of inadequate public school funding," said Rush who, himself, has earned a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from Chicago-area universities. "Despite those obstacles, thousands of our young people are succeeding against the odds. I have no doubt that several of our schools can effectively compete for this national recognition that includes having President Obama speak at the winning school's commencement ceremony.
"My staff and I will do all we can to ensure that every public school within the 1st Congressional District is aware of this year's national challenge. I'm aware of dozens of examples where promising students and their determined teaching staff work together to "win the future' each and every day. And they do it the hard way by tenaciously engaging in the work necessary to master the rigors of a solid, core curriculum. At the same time, I know there are parents, locally and nationally, who are taking extraordinary steps to ensure their children secure the gift of a quality, 21st century education.
"I truly believe that there are school students, in our community and in our state, who can effectively make the case that their coursework and the skills they've developed effectively empower them to move into the 21st century economy. There are students in my district who I know can compete with some of the best and brightest in our country. And so, today, I challenge them to make our community proud by stepping up to the plate to participate in the President's Commencement Challenge."
This year marks the second year of this nationwide competition. Today, in a statement released by the White House, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said, "Success happens in schools across the country every day. The Commencement Challenge is an extraordinary opportunity for students to share their school's story and be rewarded for their commitment to preparing for college and careers."
The White House announced that it had once again partnered with Viacom and the Get Schooled Foundation to launch this year's Commencement Challenge. In a video launching the challenge, Simon Boehme, the salutatorian from last year's winning school--Kalamazoo Central High --and current freshman at the University of Michigan, came to the White House to discuss the Commencement Challenge with President Obama.
Last year, President Obama launched the first ever Race to the Top Commencement Challenge and encouraged public high schools across the country to show how they promote college attainment and career readiness. Over 1,000 schools applied and more than 170,000 people weighed in on short videos and essays from the six finalists. President Obama selected the national winner from the three high schools with the highest average ratings. This year, the President has renewed the challenge, calling on high schools to share effective strategies on how they are preparing their students to win the future and achieve the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.