A new kind of College Signing Day?


The big man on campus walks across a podium in the Rice University basketball arena to the cheers and applause of more than 5,000 adoring fans. In their new book, The Power of Moments, Dan and Chip Heath describe the hoopla surrounding College Signing Day that a start-up charter school in Houston creates each year.

I can envision the scene in my head: coaches and the guest of honor seated at a table in the middle of the arena with two or three college hats with school colors situated prominently on the table. Mom and dad stand off to the side, their eyes beaming in the arena lights and the crowd explodes with excitement.

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The head coach says a few quick words and then hands the mic over to the football star. Which will it be? Florida State, Miami or maybe a surprise school, Ohio State or Oklahoma perhaps?

All good choices, how can the BMOC and football star go wrong? However, the event isn’t for the next great Michigan quarterback, with the Tom Brady arm and will to win, or the babyfaced giant, with Steph Curry’s outside jumper and Lebron James’ drive to the basket. No, the charter school, with a heavy population of low income Hispanic students, holds the day to honor graduating seniors and where they plan to continue their education.

So simple, yet so smart.

The founder of the school came up with the idea after watching ESPN’s coverage of National Signing Day, the first day when high school football players can sign letters of intent to a particular school. Other schools have a variation of the day, but a part of me wonders why we don’t make a bigger deal celebrating academic excellence.

I know college is not for everyone. It could be choosing a trade school or profession or enlisting in the military. I just find it funny that we send kids off to school for 12 years and longer and yes we celebrate their achievement of earning a degree. We celebrate the minimum, but why not how they plan to use the knowledge they’ve worked so hard to attain.

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We should celebrate anytime a student chooses to better themselves, to take a chance, to step out on a new path.

College sports hold a place of honor in our society. I love them as much as anyone, especially the great stories that college sports tends to create: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. However, a kid choosing to go to Michigan or Alabama to play football, that’s easy. He’s got a scholarship. He’ll have all the academic help in the world at his fingertips. He’ll even get help planning out his meals for the week.

The young man paying for his own way to attend Penn State or the community college down the street or the woman signing up to serve in the Marines or choosing to go to plumbing school, they’re the ones who deserve our cheers.

At least, that’s why I think.

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