College-bound star athletes aren’t the only ones who deserve a little hype and hoopla when they announce their postsecondary plans.

To that end, George S. Middleton High School in Tampa recently hosted its second annual National College Signing Day. The event is a spinoff of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, which seeks to inspire students to pursue and complete their education past high school.

As part of the Reach Higher initiative, Ms. Obama launched the Better Make Room campaign in 2015. The campaign seeks to recognize all students for their postsecondary plans the same way athletes and other high-profile, college-bound students are celebrated. Florida College Decision Day is the state’s adoption of the former First Lady’s initiative and is held annually on and around May 1. So far, more than 80 schools and organizations are slated to host College Decision Day events in Florida this year.

Dr. Ken Atwater, president of Hillsborough Community College, was the featured speaker during the event.

Elmer Rhone, guidance department chair at Middleton High, said about 65 seniors took part in this year’s signing day festivities at the school. The students carried small signs bearing the name of the postsecondary institution of their choice.

“We have every student come up on stage, give their name, and the name of the college they’ve committed to,” Rhone said of the school’s signing day program. “We also have a commitment letter that we have them sign. When they pick up their diploma at graduation, they’re also going to get a laminated copy of their signed letter.”

Rhone is encouraged by the popularity of the school’s signing day event. In addition to increasing the number of participants from about 50 last year to 65 this year, Rhone said she got immediate feedback from students who weren’t able to take part in the festivities.

“I had some kids come up to me after the program and say, ‘I didn’t know about this,’ and were a little upset they didn’t get a chance to come,” Rhone said. “The kids who were there absolutely seemed to love it.”

The event was co-sponsored by Hillsborough Community College. Rhone said it was Warren Smith — pre-collegiate liaison officer for HCC’s College Reach-Out Program — who suggested celebrating students at Middleton who completed their college applications.

In addition to the student introductions, Middleton High’s signing day program also included remarks from Ken Atwater, president of HCC, who functioned as the event’s featured speaker.

“Last year, Dr. Atwater came by himself, but this year he brought the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Dean of Student Services from HCC,” Rhone said. “So we’re already getting more attention.”

Florida CAN congratulates Middleton High for its National College Signing Day event and for its efforts to celebrate all of its students’ postsecondary plans! Click here for information on Florida College Decision Day and access to our free toolkit for schools and organizations that want to host their own Decision Day events.


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