C.K. McClatchy High School, located off of Freeport Boulevard in Land Park, was one of hundreds of applicants in the 2nd annual “Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge,” which invited public schools across the country to compete to have President Barack Obama speak at their graduation. Seniors were encouraged to show President Obama why their school should be a model for other schools around the country working to boost attendance and increase the number of graduates prepared for college or a career.
“We feel unafraid to ask questions and challenge ideas, preparing us to take initiative in our futures at college and in the real world,” explained Ellen Wong, McClatchy social science teacher and senior class sponsor for the class of 2011. “Our team here at McClatchy is truly one of nation builders.”
The CKM senior class of 2011 made it through to the top 50, only to find out on Friday, April 8, that their journey stopped there, but that hasn’t stopped the Lions fighting school spirit.
“The reason why I wanted to win is pretty simple – it’s the president of the United States,” exclaimed Skyler Brown, senior. “Whether you support him or not, having one of the most powerful leaders on earth take time out of his day to come to our high school would have been an honor beyond belief.”
“We still feel like winners,” said Wong. “I don’t think we were overly disappointed. It was fun to enter and I think the kids have no regrets. The idea of school spirit is to promote school and community pride and I feel we accomplished that.”
Promoting academic and community pride is exactly what the seniors wrote in the application form. Students had until March 15 to fill out the application’s four essay questions – each one focused on demonstrating how the school prepares students to meet the president’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
In addition to the required essay responses, Brown and his fellow seniors also submitted a YouTube video showing the school’s culture and character, and highlighting standards and methods on what the school does to assess and prepare students to succeed in college, the workplace, and compete in the global economy. (The video can be viewed at http://youtu.be/8pd6Pi_7h9g or simply visit YouTube and type in “McClatchy 2011 commencement challenge”).
“The diversity of our school is a very good representation of America as a whole in that it covers not only practically every ethnic group, but also every social class and every level of knowledge and perspective,” said Brown. “By coming to CKM, Obama would essentially be speaking to a ‘mini-America’ which is a very accurate picture of the rising generation as a whole.”
All schools that applied were also required to build data systems to measure student growth and success. With a 36 percent Hispanic, 24 percent Asian, 10 percent African-American, 28 percent White, and a one percent Native American population, Wong feels the school has formed a beautiful melting pot of cultures. And if the seniors had the opportunity for a one-on-one with President Obama they would have shown him why they believe ‘traditional schools,’ like McClatchy, can be successful.
“McClatchy is the most integrated school in the most integrated city in the country, according to Time magazine. We Lions learn how to navigate the world by navigating the hallways of our school. More than 90 percent of the kids in this country go to public schools and I think we need to invest more money and energy in our public schools and its more cost effectively,” said Wong.
According to a White House press release, public schools that encourage systemic reform and embrace effective approaches to teaching and learning help prepare America’s students to graduate ready for college and a career, and enable them to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. Brown feels his school does all that, and more.
“Many of the graduating seniors have spent the past four years devoting themselves to activities and subjects that more often than not require in-depth studies of present and past governments from around the world,” Brown said. “To have all those governmental studies climax in having the leader of our own government congratulate us would have been very appropriate, especially since I personally think a few of the current seniors seriously have the potential to someday be in Obama’s shoes.”
If President Obama had come to the school’s June commencement, 17 year old Karisa Yamamoto would have told him not only how great her school is, but feels his presence would have helped inspire her graduating class even more to take the lead in their life.
“Our student body has so much potential,” Yamamoto said. “Some of us just need that extra push or those few life changing words that will get us to head into the world ready to make a difference.”
Yamamoto adds she would have also taken the opportunity to ask the Commander and Chief tips on public speaking.
“He’s one of my favorite speakers and he always seems to take command of the audience with his words,” she said.
Even though the President of the United States won’t be speaking at their June commencement, seniors like Brown agree that their time spent at CKM is still truly memorable.
“This is a nation building school, it is a model. C. K. McClatchy High School is doing an excellent job of demonstrating the best aspects of a public school and the positive effect that the teachers and facilities have on students who could very well be the leaders of tomorrow.”
The finalists in the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge are:
• Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Washington)
• Wayne Early Middle College High School (Goldsboro, North Carolina)
• Booker T. Washington High School (Memphis, Tennessee)
• Science Park High School (Newark, New Jersey)
• Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, School for Creative and Performing Arts (Pittsburgh, PA)
• High Tech High International (San Diego, CA)
Did you know?
- C.K. McClathy High School was Sacramento’s second high school, established in 1937.
- Currently, approximately 2,000 students attend the school.
- In 2002, the school was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Many local, state, national, and international figures graduated from CKM, including:
- Anthony Kennedy, an associate justice with the U.S. Supreme Court since 1988
- Curtis Michel, was a NASA astronaut during the 1960’s
- Malcolm Floyd, a former National Football League wide receiver who played for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams
- Michael Drake, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, and the first African American UC chancellor
- Steve Holm, plays catcher for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball’s National League, West Division
- Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the 28th Chief Justice of California, and is the first Asian-American to lead the California Supreme Court
- Xavier Becerra, member of the U. S. House of Representatives representing a congressional district in Los Angeles since 1993