#ReachHigher: Why We Need To Make May 1st a Big Deal

May 1st is an exciting day for high school seniors across the country. It is the official day where most colleges and universities require incoming students to commit to enrolling in that school next fall by submitting a deposit. This day marks the official deadline to decide where they will be attending next fall, a big next step in their educational journey.

Looking back on my college application process, committing to a school was just another check on my college to-do list. May 1st was just like a regular day of school — no celebrations, no announcements, no reminders. It was expected that we commit to a college or university if that was part of our post high school graduation plan. As I think back, I wonder why we didn’t make it a big deal. Why didn’t I have the opportunity to share what school I would be attending? Why didn’t we have a celebration?

May 1st should be a celebration. We should celebrate the accomplishment of being accepted and committing to a college, university, or professional training program. Students should be proud and excited to announce their plans to further their education after high school. We, as a community of teachers, parents, and families, should celebrate these accomplishments.

Reach Higher, one of Michelle Obama’s initiatives while she was First Lady, is an effort to inspire students to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, regardless of whether their education continues at a professional training program, a community college, or a four year college or university. In committing to a program on May 1st, these students are committing to expand their knowledge to better their futures. In today’s economy, a high school diploma doesn’t necessarily set you up for a successful career. I believe that college is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that your education needs to stop right after high school. The degrees and trainings received from professional training programs, colleges, and universities will help set you up for a successful career and future. I fully support this initiative but would argue that we need to work as a community to help make postsecondary education and training a reality for many of our students. This includes making more affordable options and financial aid, providing support and guidance, and exposing students to a wide range of college and career options.

Part of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative is to celebrate College Signing Day on May 1st. College Signing Day is one of my favorite days as a teacher. Unlike my experience as a high school student, we take College Signing Day as an opportunity to celebrate our students’ successes. We hold a schoolwide assembly where graduating seniors get up on stage and announce in front of the entire school and their families their post high school graduation commitments. It makes me so excited to hear my students share their future plans. Whether it be a four year college or university, community college, the military, or professional training programs, I am so proud to hear their plans to #reachhigher and expand their education past high school.

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Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert is a proud product of New York public schools where she graduated with her International Baccalaureate diploma. She went off to attain her B.A. in Chemistry with concentrations in Public Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies at NYU. While at NYU, she started the chapter of “Strive for College,” a non-profit organization that connects college students as mentors to assist high schoolers throughout the college application and financial aid processes. Immediately after graduation, Chelsea pursued her teaching career with Teach for America Los Angeles. While teaching, Chelsea completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. Chelsea is currently teaching at her Teach for America placement school in Lincoln Heights where she serves as Department Instructional Lead, Instructional Leadership Team member, and coaches Varsity soccer.

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