On Thursday, May 2, the doors to Southwestern High School's gym opened to welcome 90+ seniors, community members, college representatives, and administrators to the 2019 College Signing Day. Tables were covered in royal blue and orange with balloons, a photo booth, signing table, gifts of photos signed by teachers, and multiple food tables in the back for the Taco Bar served by LaDonna's Catering and cake by Southwestern Sweets. Funding was provided by Don Franklin and the SWHS Youth Service Center.

This is an event that began with Michelle Obama's "Reach Higher" initiative in 2015 to encourage post-secondary education or training past high school years. Students are consistently recognized for receiving athletic scholarships but very seldom receive recognition on behalf of students enrolling in post-secondary education. Most of the students signing have been offered some sort of scholarship or federal and state grants to attend an institution while also being the first in their family to attend college in some capacity.

College Signing Day is a way to celebrate those students who are making great strides into adulthood - most of them being first-generation. Linda Cooper, director of Berea College Educational Talent Search gives this advice, "College can be challenging for all students, but most particularly for first generation college students. To be successful in college, remember to show up for class, do your homework, submit assignments when they are due, meet and work with your college professors, and always look for opportunities to do more than is required. Being successful in college takes persistence and determination!"

Matt Cook, Assistant Superintendent of Pulaski County Schools gave a compelling speech to students in attendance. He spoke to students about the unexpected after high school and said that his college days changed his whole perspective. He challenged students to "be good to everybody" when going through life. He really set the stage for students to succeed after high school.

Students were seated with their respective institution and after lunch and were asked to "sign" with their school of choice. They took turns coming to the signing table in groups where they signed symbolic certificates of intent and as 12:30 rolled around, seniors went back to class or headed to work. ETS volunteers cleaned up and just like that, College Signing Day was over. Our hope is to allow these students to feel the love and support they need to transition into the adult world. If we can supply them with that one caring adult and a bright start to their new life, who knows what they will accomplish.