Local News

Bridgeport High finalist for Obama speech

By Associated Press
Apr 08, 2011

Bridgeport High School in north central Washington serves a student body that is mostly Hispanic and poor, yet manages to send the vast majority of its graduates to college or technical school.

That has made the rural school one of six finalists to have President Barack Obama deliver its commencement address in June.

Students submitted essays and a video as part of a nationwide Race to the Top competition, beating out hundreds of competitors to become one of six finalists. The others are Wayne Early Middle College High in Goldsboro, N.C.; Booker T. Washington High in Memphis, Tenn.; Science Park High in Newark; Pittsburgh School for Creative and Performing Arts in Pittsburgh; and High Tech High International in San Diego.

In a statement the President said, "I want to congratulate the six finalists for all they've done to prepare their students for college and careers."

Bridgeport students submitted essays and a video as part of a nationwide competition to win the presidential visit. The topic was how their school prepares them for college and careers.

Bridgeport High School principal Tamra Jackson said Friday, that the school has about 200 students, and a graduating class of 35. She said, about 90 percent of the students are Hispanic, and every student in the school is on the free lunch program. Jackson said, many are the first in their families to go to high school. A large number are likely to be from families that are undocumented, although the school is not allowed to ask.

Yet, she said, the student body is mostly made up of high achievers, with more than 80 percent moving on to college or technical school.

Jackson said, "There is a college-going culture at our high school." Jackson has been at the school for 25 years, the past two as principal.

She said, many of the students take college courses at the school, with some graduating from high school with 60 college credits.

"We have high expectations," Jackson said. "Students will meet expectations where ever you set the bar."

Bridgeport High typically holds graduation ceremonies in its gym, unless the White House demands otherwise, Jackson said. Graduation is set for June 3.

Obama has set a national goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, and his Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge invited the nation's public high schools to submit applications that demonstrate their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Hundreds of applications were judged based on the schools' performance, essay questions and supplemental data.

In the next step of the Commencement Challenge, students at each school will work with The Get Schooled Foundation to create a short video highlighting how the school best fulfills the Challenge's criteria. The six videos, along with portions of each school's written application, will be featured on the White House web site and the public can vote for the three schools they think best meet the president's goal. Obama will select the winner from these three finalists.

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