LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Nearly 1,500 college-bound seniors in Louisville have been recognized for their commitment to go to college and earn a degree. The students were honored at a celebration Monday at the KFC Yum! Center. Jefferson County Public Schools, the KFC Yum! Center and 55,000 Degrees – Louisville’s education movement – joined forces to host College Signing Day.
“It’s always exciting when you see people gather around when a high school athlete signs on for college,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees. “But this event recognizes that every college decision is exciting! These students are not only helping us reach our goal of having 50 percent of working age adults with college degrees by 2020 – they’re also taking a critical step to building satisfying careers. This is an important day for them, their families, and our entire community.”
Students from 26 JCPS high schools, along with some students from Archdiocese of Louisville high schools, attended the celebration. They heard from inspiring guests, met with representatives from their colleges and had a chance to meet with other area students planning to attend the same school.
“Our JCPS vision is for all students to graduate prepared, and one of our strategies we use to reach that goal is celebrating the success of our young people,” JCPS Donna Hargens said. “All students who commit to pursuing their goals in college deserve the encouragement, excitement and support that surrounds student athletes when they select their future college.”
Fischer, Hargens, 55,000 Degrees Executive Director Mary Gwen Wheeler and AEG Facilities’ KFC Yum! Center Premium Sales Director Robbie Valentine, a member of the 1986 NCAA Championship University of Louisville men’s basketball team, took part in a roundtable discussion and shared some of their college experiences with students.
“It’s important for students to know that college is challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” said Wheeler. “It’s often in college that we begin to author our own life stories and envision our future potential selves. These students are getting ready to begin an important journey that will change their lives.”
The students heard from Colmon Elridge III, who serves as executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear. Elridge, the first person in his family to earn his college degree, was 26 years old when he was appointed and started managing day-to-day operations of the Governor’s office.
After the roundtable discussion and keynote address, students fanned across the concourse of the KFC Yum! Center to take part in breakout sessions with representatives from their colleges. Representatives from more than two dozen colleges and universities were in attendance, providing valuable information and advice to students.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with JCPS and 55,000 Degrees to recognize students for their academic excellence and plans to continue their education,” said AEG Facilities’ KFC Yum! Center General Manager Dennis Petrullo. “It’s important for us to give back to the community and helping to shine a spotlight on the next generation of Louisville’s potential leaders is one of many ways we seek to do that.”
During their breakout sessions, students received a certificate with their school’s logo and signed a commitment to continue their education and earn their degree. Students returned to the bowl of the arena for the special signing day celebration. Students were honored on a college-by-college basis as they proudly held up their certificates of commitment.
Following the signing day celebration, Bellarmine Basketball Coach Scott Davenport, who led the Knights to a NCAA Division II national championship, took to the court to congratulate students and encouraged them to be champions in the classroom and in life. College Signing Day ended on an inspirational note, with First Lady Michelle Obama delivering words of support and motivation in a video message.
Students were encouraged to share their College Signing Day experiences on social media using #SignLou. They were also invited to sign up for college text updates, www.marlimar.com/student55, and summer coaching, firstname.lastname@example.org, to connect with college resources and personnel during the summer months.
College Signing Day would not have been possible without the hard work and support of many individuals. Special thanks to:
• Renee Murphy, Rachel Platt and Terry Meiners (WHAS TV)
• Ben Davis and Kelly K. (WDJX)
• Class Act Federal Credit Union
• JCPS High School Counselors Association
• Tiger Foundation, Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free & Accepted Masons of Kentucky, Inc.
55,000 Degrees is the ambitious initiative launched in 2010 with the goal of having 50 percent of Louisville’s working-age adults with college degrees by 2020. In 2014, Louisville had the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history at 41.5 percent. Find more information atwww.55000degrees.org.