NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Recovery School District (RSD), and Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) celebrated New Orleans’ college bound seniors at the inaugural NOLA Senior Shout Out event at Gallier Hall. The event created and hosted by the city’s education leaders aimed to give New Orleans seniors a shout out for their hard work and dedication as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their educational pursuits.
“It’s exciting to recognize the success of our high school seniors,” said Stan Smith, OPSB Superintendent. “Their graduation and the scholarships earned by these students are a reflection of the cumulative efforts and hard work of students, their parents, teachers, school leaders, and staff who have supported them from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Everyone who has contributed to this day can take pride in the recognition that, as a result of their efforts, our future is in good hands.”
With over 2,500 public high school students set to graduate this May, students have been accepted to over 345 different colleges, representing 42 states and six countries outside of the United States with over $53 million in scholarships and counting. Today, sixty high schools seniors lined the steps of Gallier Hall representing their fellow graduates from public high schools throughout New Orleans. The students participating today will be attending over 30 colleges and universities spanning institutions from Yale University to Xavier University of Louisiana to Juilliard to Tulane University to Emory University.
“Our common goal is to prepare all students for post-secondary education and life long careers,” said Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Recovery School District. “Today is yet another testament that we are moving closer to achieving that goal and we stand united as a city to applaud the unwavering commitment of our educators and families to effectively prepare New Orleans’ graduates.”
Another illustration of how far public education in New Orleans has come is evidenced in the recent data. The percentage of students attending a failing public school in New Orleans is 5.7 percent, down from 65 percent in 2008. According to 2012 cohort graduation rates, New Orleans outperformed the state of Louisiana with 77.8% of its seniors graduating on time compared to Louisiana’s 72.3%.
“I am so proud of our city and how far we have come over the past several years,” said Kira Orange Jones, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member. “We have increased the number of graduates by a staggering 25 percentage points since 2004 and that is a great accomplishment to celebrate. Watching our students shout out their future alma maters clearly showed that education is a priority for our youth.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu congratulated the districts for their leadership in changing the public education landscape in New Orleans and touted the education reforms incubated in the city. As the Mayor closed his remarks, he ushered seniors to shout out their names, the name of their high school, and the name of the college or university they are set to attend this fall.
“Education has been fundamental in rebuilding our city,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “New Orleans is experiencing one of the most comprehensive education reforms in this country and I am proud to stand with our education leaders, teachers, parents and most of all our students to applaud their tireless work to transform education for everyone in New Orleans.”
Seniors today echoed the sentiments of Lanesa Barabino from Warren Easton Charter High School, who said that “High school has been the best four years of my life so far. The hands-on-teaching and curriculum has lead me to the great challenge of becoming a zoologist, which I plan to study at Tulane University this fall.”
Senior Renee Smith, a scholar graduating from Sci Academy has been accepted to Louisiana State University, LA Tech, and Nicholls State University, and will be attending Louisiana State University in the Fall of 2014 to pursue a double major in neuroscience and biochemistry.
She credits her teachers and her family with helping her push herself to make critical college decisions. Her sister, Simone, is finishing her freshman year at Oberlin College in Ohio, and her mother completed her college degree as an adult, when Renee was in high school.
“Seeing everyone in my family go through college has made me feel like I wasn’t pushing myself enough when I was younger,” said Smith. “I want to push myself, and explore lots of classes in college.”