The feeling inside UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion was electrifying. There was close to 10,000 high school seniors and transfer students proudly wearing their college shirts and screaming as celebrities and athletes like Usher, Kelly Rowland, Adam Rippon, John Legend, Candace Parker and Lea Michele walked onstage to congratulate them.
All of these athletes and celebrities weren’t at UCLA for a concert or an award show—instead they were there to celebrate College Signing Day and the importance of higher education.
This College Signing Day was the fifth anniversary of Reach Higher and our largest national celebration to date. The national event in Los Angeles was hosted along with the University of California system and all of their UC campuses. We also had close to 3,000 celebrations being organized by schools, universities, and organizations in all 50 states, plus D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The students in the room, and those watching online, made the commitment to pursue higher education at a community college, trade school, university or by joining the military.
The loudest screams and cheers at College Signing Day came when Michelle Obama walked across the stage. Mrs. Obama, a first-generation college graduate who attended Princeton University and later Harvard Law School, proudly wore a Compton College hoodie to highlight the importance of community colleges. She wanted to show the world “not to count out folks from Compton” and told the students that going to college is “the best investment that you can possibly make.”
Mrs. Obama shared a bit more of her story, "When I was in high school and I wanted to apply to the college of my choice, I had someone tell me that I shouldn’t reach too high…let me tell you that will happen to you again and again. In those times you have to ask yourself, whether you're going to believe the haters or whether you're going to believe the own truth of your story."
Through her Reach Higher Initiative and Better Make Room Campaign, Mrs. Obama has truly made going to college the “cool” thing to do for young people. By sharing her story and giving advice based on her own experience as a first-generation graduate, she inspires students everywhere to dream big and believe that anything is possible.
Photo courtesy of Chuck Kennedy.
Merone Hailemeskel serves as the Director of Communications and Digital Strategy for Reach Higher and Better Make Room. In this role, she builds and executes the communication, digital and outreach strategy used to inspire students to pursue and complete a postsecondary education. As a Policy Advisor, Merone co-leads Reach Higher’s undermatching research efforts and is responsible for managing ...