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By Sarah Beauchemin
Proud families and peers of seniors at The O’Farrell Charter School (OCS) gathered at the school’s gymnasium on April 26 to celebrate OCS’s second annual College Signing Day. The hour-long ceremony was an opportunity for seniors to publicly pledge their commitment to the college or university they will attend this fall, as well as reflect on all of the hard work they’ve accomplished and the journey that lies ahead.
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To learn more about The O’Farrell High School, including information about the class of 2017 as well as news, enrollment, and upcoming events, visit ofarrellschool.org.
The event began with a rousing speech by Dr. Tim Bugno, Program Manager of Curriculum & Instruction at AVID. Bugno emphasized the importance of valuing one’s life journey over focusing on a planned outcome, and to remember that failing does not equal failure.
“If there’s one piece of advice I can offer all of you here today, it’s to commit to the journey, not the outcome,” said Bugno. “The outcome may change, and may always continue to change. But the journey is what will ultimately reward you in your life, no matter where your path takes you. Being a person who brings value to the world will reward you every time.”
At the conclusion of Bugno’s speech, each senior’s name and the college or Armed Forces branch in which they will enroll in the fall was announced. Amongst cheers and applause, seniors eagerly signed a “contract” pledging their commitment to their post-high school endeavors.
What College Signing Day Means to Seniors
“For me, today was about taking the first big step in my life after high school,” said Adrian, an OCS senior who is attending UC San Diego in Fall 2017 for Computer Engineering. “I think of Signing Day as a really big confidence boost, to proudly announce to the world that I’m going to college. It was so exciting to hear my name along with UCSD read out loud.”
Another OCS senior, Sophia, echoed Adrian’s sentiments about Signing Day being a great confidence builder. “On Signing Day, I’m able to show my parents, ‘Hey, I’ve done it!’” she said. “My dad went to college but wasn’t able to finish, so it’s a big deal for me to not only go to college, but know that I’m going to finish.”
Sophia, who will attend UC Santa Barbara to major in Biological Anthropology, also found Dr. Bugno’s advice impressive. “I really liked how he said it’s about the journey, not the end goal,” she said. “I feel like I can give myself permission to relax and not try to plan each step of my life, but trust that I have the intelligence and skills to figure out what path is best for me.”
Both seniors cited the strong teacher-student relationships at OCS as one of the catalysts for wanting to go to college, and being well-prepared for it. “I’ve been at OCS since middle school,” said Sophia. “I can honestly say that the teacher-student relationships here are so personal. It feels like a family, which is so important regarding the mentorship involved in going to college.”
Ensuring Students’ Access to College and Beyond
But Signing Day is also vital because it rewards a long and rigorous academic journey for OCS seniors, noted Brian Rainey, OCS’s high school principal.
“Since many of our seniors have been at OCS since middle school, Signing Day is really the culmination of six-to-seven years of time where we’ve been preparing them for college every step of the way,” he said.
This preparation has paid off well. Last year, OCS had a 100% graduation rate, and they are on track to do the same this year. Furthermore, 94% of graduating seniors will attend a college, university, or technical school, while 6% will enlist in the military. Two-thirds of OCS seniors were accepted to a CSU or UC school this fall, and a large percentage of those admits were to UCSD and UCLA – an impressive feat.
“All of our students go on to college – be it traditional, technical, or community college,” said Rainey. “Even our seniors who join the Armed Forces plan to earn a degree after their service is complete.”
Overall, the driving force behind OCS’s mission is the belief that every student should have access to college and professional work opportunities. “The students here in an underrepresented community deserve the same opportunities that everyone else gets,” said Rainey.
Besides its college-oriented curriculum, OCS helps accomplish this by partnering with community funders that cover the costs associated with each student’s college admissions process – including SAT/ACT and AP exam fees, college application fees, and even tutoring.
“College Signing Day has created a very cool cycle of OCS high schoolers waiting for this day to happen,” said Rainey. “For them, this is part one of graduation, the first step in their path to a very bright future.”