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Obama to Speak at the Graduation of Race to the Top Winner

Obama to Speak at the Graduation of Race to the Top Winner

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Liz Dwyer | GOOD Magazine

Congratulations are in order for Memphis, Tennessee’s Booker T. Washington High School. The school is the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. President Obama will head there later this spring to deliver the graduation speech.

Booker T. Washington opened its doors in 1873 and was the first public high school in segregated Memphis that black students were allowed to attend. As the school’s finalist video details, in recent years the 500-student campus has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—98 percent of students live in poverty and 20 percent of student’s homes were lost when a housing project was demolished—and increased the graduation rate from 55 to 82 percent.

Vice President Biden phoned Principal Alisha Kiner on Tuesday to tell her the good news and President Obama issued a statement on Tuesday congratulating the school, saying, “Booker T. Washington High School proves what can be accomplished when students, teachers, parents and administrators come together to support achievement in the classroom and I’m looking forward to delivering the commencement address at this extraordinary school soon.”

Out of all the finalists in the competition, I’ll admit I’ve been secretly rooting for Booker T. Washington. Every time I watched their submission video, I cried. If you watch it all the way through and see what kind of change is possible in some of our toughest schools, it’s pretty impossible to not walk away feeling emotional and inspired. Congratulations to the students and staff there for all their hard work and dedication.

Liz is GOOD’s education editor. She taught in Guangzhou, China and Compton, California, and worked for Teach For America. She’s written for Good Housekeeping, Parenting and numerous online publications.

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