IUPUI Upward Bound celebrated its first College Signing Day. Formerly, it was only a graduation ceremony, but with 24 students participating, Upward Bound wanted to give their students a greater incoming experience that included both College Signing Day and the Upward Bound graduation ceremony.
During her time in the White House, former First Lady Michelle Obama created College Signing Day as part of her educational program, Reach Higher. It is an opportunity to acknowledge high school students who are not typically noticed in the college acceptance process. Since universities generally receive high school athletes with much celebration, other notable students such as first-generation students and excellent scholars should be additionally celebrated upon acceptance into the universities or colleges of their choosing. Since the creation of this idea, universities across the United States have begun creating spaces for incoming students to find their places within the institutions and begin their journey with an immediate sense of belonging.
The 24 graduating seniors this year are attending many different institutions, including:
Indiana University Bloomington: 7
Ivy Tech Community College: 2
Ball State University: 1
Indiana State University: 1
University of Kentucky: 1
University of Louisiana: 1
Wabash College: 1
Out of these students, three graduated with a 4.0 GPA, three with a 3.5 GPA, and nine with at least a 3.0 GPA.
Even though they are attending different universities, each student found their experience working with IUPUI’s Upward Bound program to be rewarding. When asked about her experience, student Jada Payne shared her excitement: “The experience I have had in Upward Bound can’t be described in words. Being part of this program has shaped me into a person I never knew I could ever be. I’m so happy to have joined this program. I have not only gained educational skills but also life skills that you don’t get taught at school.”
Payne also shared where she will be going for school and why she is excited to attend. She said, “I am going to IU Bloomington, and I’m most excited to grow and learn new things. College is where you find yourself and what you are really passionate about, and I’m ready to start my journey in life.”
Payne explained what College Signing Day means to her and other students: “College Signing Day means to me a Recognition Day because we get to celebrate the accomplishments of all students, not just athletes, because academics matter, too.”
Another student, Michelle Sanchez-Rosas, had this to say about College Signing Day: “College Signing Day is a day to celebrate our hard work and to introduce a new chapter in our lives. To gather together with friends and enjoy each other’s company before going our separate paths.”
Sanchez-Rosas explained her experience with Upward Bound: “My experience with Upward Bound has been amazing, and it’s sad that it has come to an end because I really enjoyed all the activities and people all around us.”
The keynote speaker, Leslie Johnson, relayed to students her path to success, which included fame and misfortune. Her speech was designed to encourage students to achieve their dreams despite pitfalls along the way. She reminded students that they are supported and encouraged not only by family and friends but also by the Upward Bound program and Johnson herself.
Johnson was named to the 2019 Women’s Induction Class of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a graduate of Northrop High School, she was a 1993 Indiana All-Star and high school All-American. She then became the NCAA National Freshman of the Year and took the Purdue University Women’s Basketball team to the 1994 NCAA Final Four. After many other awards, she was drafted by the WNBA Washington Mystics and went on to play professionally in Greece, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Portugal, and Spain.