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CBHS Seniors March to Drum of College Aspirations

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CBHS Seniors March to Drum of College Aspirations
Posted on 12/12/2014

Seniors from Casco Bay High School marched down Congress Street from the Portland Museum of Art to the downtown post office on Dec. 12 to mail their college applications. It was CBHS’ second annual March to the Post Office, an event in which students make mailing their college applications a public affirmation of their higher education goals.

The students also were participating in the national College March, celebrating their college aspirations with other high school seniors across the country. CBHS was among about 20 high schools in nine cities nationwide participating in the march in December.

The students chanted “College, college” as they marched and were cheered on by a crowd that included Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland Public Schools’ administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and other staff, mentors, parents, Congress Street business owners and patrons, pedestrian passersby, Portland Police and the Portland Public Library staff. The TD Bank Wow! Van served as the lead escort car in the march.

Also rooting for the high school seniors were other Portland Public Schools’ students from Reiche Community School and from King Middle School.

The younger students were invited to not only support CBHS seniors but to help inspire the youngsters to aspire to college themselves, said Stephanie Doyle, CBHS guidance counselor and a lead organizer of the event. When the Reiche elementary students arrived at the Portland Museum of Art, the CBHS students cheered them and gave them “high five” greetings.

CBHS requires all its students to apply to college, Principal Derek Pierce explained before the march.

“Ever since we opened we’ve required every student to complete a college application. That’s an amazing thing that every single kid does that,” he said. But until CBHS started holding the march, he said, “we never had a way to mark that so that kids can experience and understand how awesome that is, and for the whole school to really appreciate that.”

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk said, “This march by Casco Bay High School seniors underscores that they are on a clear pathway to success. The Portland Public Schools’ goal is that all students will graduate ready for college and career and I commend these students for their high aspirations and for working hard to achieve that goal.”

Mayor Michael Brennan said, “It's great to see our whole community coming together to celebrate the postsecondary aspirations and hard work of our students as they take a big step towards success beyond high school.”

Speaking in front of City Hall at the end of the march, Brennan urged all students to work hard at their studies to get into college. “I would not be here as mayor of Portland had I not gone to college,” he said.

As one of its core objectives, Portland ConnectED, a community coalition convened by Mayor Brennan, strives to support more Portland students all the way to postsecondary completion, an increasingly essential milestone for successful civic and economic engagement in the 21st century.

Mike Dixon, Executive Director of Portland ConnectED, joined the mayor in congratulating the students on their hard work. “We look forward to supporting the postsecondary goals of all Portland students all the way to the finish line,” he said.

The students dropped their applications into a large postal bin that U.S. Postal Service officials had set up outside the post office. Some placed the envelopes in but others were more theatrical, slam-dunking their applications to stress the importance of applying to college. Portland Postmaster Jim Thornton said the Postal Service realizes how important it is for students to deliver their applications to the college of their choice.

“If any of you – parents, teachers or students – have any questions or need assistance with your mailings, please don’t hesitate to visit the Portland Post Office. We are here to help,” he said. “This year, I share your excitement about mailing in college applications because my youngest son is applying for colleges too. I wish all of this year’s seniors the best of luck in this next big step in their lives.”

Recognized by President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address, the College March began in 2011 at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning Schools, an Expeditionary Learning school Mentor School in the NYC Outward Bound Schools network, with help from Capital One Financial Corp.

Since then, the College March has spread across the country. For more information on the national effort, visit www.collegemarch.org.

Many of the students participating in the March nationwide are the first in their families to apply to college, and for some, English is not their native language. The College March is a powerful symbol of the idea that every student, regardless of background or circumstance, has the potential to thrive at a high-quality institution of higher learning.

CBHS senior Sahra Hassan spoke for her class in front of City Hall at the end of the march, saying they had all worked very hard and were eager to go to college and start careers. She said would be the first person in her family to go to college and that she would also be attending on behalf of her brother, who died a few years ago.

Pierce said, “I hope we do this every year. The energy in the building has been awesome and we’re all crazy pumped and we couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing.”

(Click here to see a PPS video of the event.)

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CBHS students march down Congress Street to mail their applications to college.

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CBHS seniors "high five" Reiche elementary students who came to support them.

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CBHS senior Sahra Hassan leads her class in cheering their college aspirations.

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The CBHS Class of 2015 poses at City Hall with Principal Derek Pierce after mailing their college applications.