Graduation season is one of my favorite times of year. Over the next few weeks, hundreds of DCPS high school seniors will walk across the stage and into the next chapter of their lives. At DCPS, we believe that every student should be empowered to choose what that next chapter will be. It’s not a decision we can make for them, but we can support them every step of the way. I’m proud to say that for many of our graduating seniors, that next step is college.
By 2018, nearly 75 percent of all jobs within the District of Columbia will require some postsecondary education. This can mean a four-year or two-year college degree, a certification, or an apprenticeship. Students can pursue this education by entering a college or university, by enlisting in a branch of military service, or pursuing educational opportunities offered by an employer. To ensure our students are prepared for this reality, we plan to intentionally increase student access and exposure to postsecondary opportunities.
By the end of this school year, we will have taken 1650 students on college tours, up from 1200 students last year. This summer, approximately 750 of our students will participate in career-ready internships, up from 525 students last summer. We have also started providing targeted supports at three of our high schools through college and career coordinators, a position we are expanding to six additional high schools next school year. In fact, one of the best ways to help students believe they can successfully attain a career certificate or college degree after graduating high school is to expose them to numerous opportunities before they graduate. We need every student to picture themselves succeeding.
Vaughn Jones wants to be an opera singer someday. “My favorite high school memory was when Washington National Opera singer Solomon Howard came here to perform my freshman year. That’s when I started to develop a love for classical music and opera.” Vaughn will pursue music next year at Montclair State University, a fitting path given his interest in opera and his music experience at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. In addition to various AP classes, he is a member of the Show Choir, sings in five languages, and has studied vocal technique and music theory to further hone his skills. He’s looking forward to college because it will give him a little more freedom and because he won’t be far from New York City. He feels ready thanks to his high school education: “Ellington is a great place, but it requires you to work hard. You have to love what you do. You can’t just come in here expecting fame. You really have to work on your craft and work for what you want in life.” #DCPSGoesToCollege
Amina Vargas is only the third student from Duke Ellington School of the Arts to be accepted to the Alvin Ailey Program at Fordham University. She says it was quite the application process, including a picture and resumé, an academic application to Fordham, and a live audition, but that Duke Ellington prepared her well. “When I got here, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but it’s been an uphill climb. We work hard here, and we’re passionate about what we do.” Her dual-enrollment class at Howard University also gave her a reality check when her professor wouldn’t accept a paper that was five minutes late. “It showed me what to expect, and it stepped up my game.” Amina plans to study pre-health at Fordham, and can’t wait to be surrounded by the diversity of New York City, which she calls the “best place a dancer can be.” Juniors in the programs are guaranteed an audition for Ailey’s second company, which is what she plans to do. While she’s excited for college, she’ll miss the sense of family at Duke Ellington, a school that she says fosters not just young artists and creative thinkers, but “leaders in the arts community and the DC community in general.” #DCPSGoesToCollege
In my first graduation season as Chancellor, I am proud to see so many of our graduating seniors determining their own path, and to see so many DCPS educators standing behind them. As we’re seeing in our #DCPSGoesToCollege campaign, our young people are capable of truly incredible things when we hold them to high expectations and support them on their journeys. As we say farewell to the Class of 2017 over the next few weeks, I hope you will join me in not only celebrating their accomplishments, but in committing to support them and all DCPS students in determining their own paths.
Chancellor Antwan Wilson