Students, educators, elected leaders, and families all gathered today at the third annual New Orleans Senior Shout Out.
Started just two years ago with fewer than 30 students, this year’s event included over 200 seniors from the class of 2016, and over 200 students from the class of 2020—current 8th graders about to begin high school.
While the official graduation and college enrollment data is not yet out for the class of 2016, the students that gathered today represent over 2200 graduating seniors. This graduating class has been accepted to over 315 colleges and universities throughout the world and has earned nearly $80 million in scholarship funding.
The class of 2016 continues the progress New Orleans has seen over the last several years as more and more students graduate and head off to college than ever before.
In just over ten years, the percent of high school students graduating on time has risen by over 20 points. Black males in New Orleans are graduating at rates (68%) above state (64%) and national averages (59% in 2013). Additionally, students with special needs and English language learners are also graduating at rates above the state average.
And more students are heading off to college than in previous years. 63% of the class of 2015 enrolled in college last fall, with the vast majority enrolling in four-year programs. This is a big increase from 2014, in both overall and four-year college enrollment.
These statistics tell an important part of the progress in New Orleans, but the real stories to celebrate cannot be articulated by data. Students throughout this city are accomplishing amazing things, and many of this year’s seniors will undoubtedly continue to make a significant impact on their city. A few of the stories of this year’s graduates that inspire us:
Dairyn Oliva-Navarro, the valedictorian this year at Sci High, will be a first generation college student attending the University of New Orleans this fall to study business administration. Dairyn moved to the US when she was seven and struggled to learn English, but she persevered and thrived. She doubled up on math classes her sophomore year so she could take pre-calculus and she just finished taking AP statistics. Last summer, as part of her internship at LSU, Dairyn had the opportunity to do hands-on research looking for clues to cure tuberculosis.
Brandi Sylve is the class president at KIPP Renaissance High School and will attend Howard University this fall with a near full scholarship. She scored a 33 on both the English and reading parts of the ACT—placing her in the 97th percentile in the country. Brandi wants to “bring every ounce of knowledge I gain in college back into my community, because I believe in the potential and power the black community has when given the right tools.” Before heading to Howard University in the fall, Brandi will be interning with the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.
Korey Finnie will graduate from Edna Karr and is a recipient of the Posse Foundation Scholarship to attend Tulane University this fall. Korey is in the gifted and talented writing program, has taken over six AP courses throughout his high school career, and was the first freshman at Edna Karr to get a passing score on an AP exam. Korey’s success outside of the classroom is just as impressive; he’s part of the student government, serves as an ambassador at the school, and played on the basketball and football teams—even being honored as a Chevron Student Athlete of the Week for the state of Louisiana. Korey will be majoring in Child Developmental Psychology at Tulane. He wants to be a pediatrician so he can serve the young people in his hometown.
Freddie McGee is about to graduate from Cohen College Prep High School. Not only did Freddie spend his high school career challenging himself with as many AP classes as he could take, maintaining high grades, and practicing every day for both the band and the football team, but he also cared for his younger brother along the way. Freddie is heading to LSU this fall to pursue a degree in sports medicine.
These are just four of the amazing students graduating this year. We look forward to seeing what amazing things they, and the rest of the class of 2016, accomplish!