There are just over two months left until Baltimore’s College Signing Day on May 1, and city leaders are encouraging high school seniors to start thinking about post-secondary education.
Tisha Edwards, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Children & Family Success, said in a press conference Wednesday with Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young that students have to pursue career training or higher education beyond grade school to be part of today’s competitive workforce.
“We know that they have to go beyond high school in order to have a living wage and to be able to thrive in Baltimore,” Edwards said. “This is an opportunity to message that, reinforce that and help young people understand that high school is just the beginning.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off College Signing Day nationally in 2014 as part of her Reach Higher initiative, aimed at inspiring students to take charge of their future by continuing their education past high school through a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.
Baltimore first held its own College Signing Day in 2018, and Young said the city is working to make this year’s free event on May 1 at Royal Farms Arena “bigger, better and even more inspirational.”
Young said he expects some 40 colleges and universities to be present at the arena along with special guests and performances by students and professional talent.
On College Signing Day, Baltimore high school seniors will be able to mingle with their peers from across the district, share what their plans are after high school, hear from education speakers, and meet representatives from various colleges, universities and organizations.
Edwards said she doesn’t want to see an empty seat at the Royal Farms Arena when students, educators and collegiate representatives gather to celebrate students deciding what their path after high school will be.
“[W]e want every seat full, celebrating young people,” she said.
Before leading the Mayor’s Office of Children & Family Success, Edwards worked as the CEO of BridgeEdu, connecting teenagers with higher education opportunities. She previously served as the chief of staff of Baltimore City Public Schools until the school system’s former CEO Andres Alonso resigned, after which Edwards served as interim CEO from 2013 to 2014.
Donning a Brown University sweatshirt to rep one of her alma maters, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said events like College Signing Day help demonstrate to students that learning is a lifelong journey.
“If we want our graduates to not just qualify for graduation but to become robust citizens with a variety of options, things like College Signing Day are really the way to signal to them the importance of learning throughout their lives,” she said.
Not only will College Signing Day celebrate the approximately 5,000 high school seniors, but it will also allow a select group of Baltimore’s 8th and 11th grade students to get a sneak peek into post-secondary education planning process, Santelises said.
Santelises urged students who have not yet completed their applications to Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to do so in order to qualify for scholarships and aid programs. The FAFSA deadline is March 1.
Tremayne Lipscomb, outreach coordinator for Baltimore-based clothing store DTLR, said the students’ excitement was contagious when DTLR served as a sponsor of Baltimore’s first College Signing Day in 2018.
“We’re back again to provide support by working with students to identify talent and some exciting experiences,” said Lipscomb, wearing a sweatshirt from Hampton University, his alma mater.
Limpscomb added that he wants to challenge other organizations to join DTLR in celebrating the success of Baltimore’s students.