Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Answer is YES

As you drive around Houston these days, you will see cars (minivans usually) with a large blue and white bumper sticker that says: "Will my child go to college? The answer is YES!" When I'm driving down the freeway and I see one of those stickers, my heart leaps a little bit. What started out as a ramshackle school in a parking lot is now a driving force in education reform in Houston, Texas, and (I'd like to think) the country. I never get as many comments on my YES posts as my other posts, but I couldn't let this week go by without letting everyone know about the amazing students at YES Prep in Houston, Texas.

The long and short of my school is this: 100% of our kids go to college. We guarantee that any student who enters our doors and sticks with our program WILL be accepted to and matriculate to a 4 year college or university. In fact, it is written into our charter. In order to graduate from our high school and receive a diploma, students MUST go to college. The high school graduation rate around these parts hovers around 60% and the number going to college after graduating is much smaller. For Hispanics and African Americans, it is around 20%. Only ONE out of SIX Hispanic students in HISD will graduate from high school. At our school, 90% of the students will be first generation college students. Many have parents who do not have a middle or high school education. Yet they will break the cycle and go to college.

So at YES, going to college is a BIG DEAL. We basically hype it up for 6 years. Every May, we have something called "Senior Signing Day". Maybe you're a football fan and you watch on TV when high school seniors across the country sign their letters of intent to join a college sports team. Our is like that, but instead of celebrating sports, we celebrate college acceptance. It is on this day that every student and teacher in the district gathers (about 4,000 people) to watch each senior jubilantly reveal the college they will attend. You might think you had stumbled into a Lady GaGa concert with the amount of noise, craziness, and excitement that goes on at this event. It is so fun to see even little kids excited about college.

Just to give you a taste of how big of a deal this was for us, the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was the keynote speaker.
The cool thing about this particular Senior Signing Day is that it is our campus's first year to graduate seniors. We have been growing by one grade a year, and now we're sending our first class off to college. Even cooler, I taught these seniors in 7th grade during my first year of teaching. So it was neat for me to see them make it all the way! Apparently I didn't mess them up too badly back when I didn't know what I was doing :-) Not every senior is going to the Ivy League, but there were some pretty impressive colleges! Here are a few of my favorites:

This is Leo. He is an extremely talented artist and super smart. He will be attending A&M. Whoop! This is Noe. Super quiet, super sweet. And, oh yeah... he's going to Vanderbilt. This is Eddie. The charmer. Prom court. First generation college student. Yep, that's Dartmouth. It gives me chills to think how proud his parents must be. Here is a big group of them, all showing off their new college pride. Here is a a video taken by a local news station. I think it does a good job of capturing the event!

Finally, I will leave you with a video of the "YES Prep Yell". Aggies are taking over YES, and now we have a new tradition of yells, just like at A&M. Each campus has their own yell, and we have an all-YES yell. There is even a pass-back!



Tiffany said...

This is so exciting! I definitely teared up because it is so fabulous! Thank you for sharing this! What an awesome experience. I can't imagine the pride those students must feel knowing they are headed to college! I think I often take things like that for granted. It was never a question of IF I was going to college...only WHERE. And it is so exciting that the only question for these kids is "where"! Thanks for investing in these kids.

Liz said...

This is SO awesome!! Amen to everything T-Rog said. I got teary, too. I wish I could understand the words to the yell... but I loved how hyped everyone was. Thanks for sharing!

p.s. my "word verification" is "fighter" and that's YOU! You rock.

Katie said...

Okay, I know we don't know each other but I stumbled upon your blog a while back and have followed it ever since. I don't generally leave comments but I have to on this one. This is fantastic! It made me tear up a little too! Congrats!!

Anonymous said...

katie, LOVE the blog! so i have this thing about blogs...absolutely love reading them (only if i know the person)! yours is so great - and i have to admit, i cried on this post! of course, it could be partly pregnancy hormones, but it was inspiring all the same! ;) you obviously love your work and do a great job! and you're inspiring me to start a blog of my own...i've been considering it...


Charlie said...

Very very touching...

So glad Arne Duncan wants to shine a national spotlight on YES.

Mom and I are so proud of you!

Gig Em!


Elizabeth said...

So neat Katie. What an amazing school to be a part of!

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