Principal Wallace Aristide could barely contain himself as he faced the more than 265 graduating seniors of Miami Northwestern Senior High School last week, many of them clothed in the colors of the colleges and universities they plan to attend, including FIU.
“I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself,’’ he told the crowd of nearly 700 students, family members and teachers that packed the school auditorium. “This group of seniors decided to set the standard. This group of seniors decided to raise the bar. And this group of seniors decided to get $5.7 million in scholarships.”
“When you’re good, you’re good!”
After telling the graduates, “this is your time,’’ Aristide paused to thank FIU President Mark Rosenberg for creating a partnership with the Liberty City school that has encouraged a college-going culture, helped increase graduation rates and improved student learning.
“This partnership has been tremendous for Miami Northwestern,” Aristide said.
FIU launched the community school partnership, called the Education Effect, with a seed investment of $1 million by JP Morgan Chase in the fall of 2011.
Since that time, the school has gone from a D to a B grade; increased graduation rates from 64 percent to 76 percent and increased the number of students earning a 3.0 and above by 15 percent.
This year, more than half of the graduating seniors have been accepted into colleges, universities and the military – a 10 percent increase over last year.
“I commend you for that,’’ Rosenberg told the graduates. “Many new doors are now open to you. You set a very high bar and I want to challenge you to continue to do that.’’
“There is a pathway for you and FIU can offer it,’’ he added. “We want you to know we stand with you. We stand with the Class of 2013.’’
More than two dozen Miami Northwestern students are now studying at FIU and many have already distinguished themselves academically and as student leaders. Twenty-seven students from the school will attend FIU this fall, including Brandon Johnson, who earned a partial scholarship to the FIU Honors College.
Johnson, 17, will be the first in his family to attend college. He said the dual enrollment courses with FIU helped him focus and improve academically.
“They were the hardest classes, but they were the best classes,’’ said Johnson, who plans to study math and science. “You really had to put your all into it.’’
Wearing FIU T-shirts and draped in the colorful tassels of academic achievement, Matthew Hatcher, 17, and Emelyn Frederic, 18, were both accepted into the Golden Scholars summer bridge program at FIU.
“I’m excited to go to FIU,’’ said Frederic, who was also treasurer for the student government association. “I know it’s going to help me grow as a person.”
Hatcher, who follows his mother, Marie Faustin, to FIU, plans to study business. He was selected by the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project to receive a four-year, $6,000 scholarship. He took several advanced placement and dual enrollment classes his senior year.
“They challenged me,’’ he said. “I feel I’m going to be ready now.’’
Among the proudest graduates attending the event were those from the 50s, 60s and 70s – alumni who returned to honor the latest group of graduating Bulls – and provide scholarships.
“We have been attending these awards ceremonies since 1972,’’ said Delores Campbell-Miller, president of the Miami Northwestern Class of 1962. “This is our 41st year of giving scholarships. We bleed blue and gold.’’
The best part of the day, Campbell-Miller said, was seeing students recognized for academics and service, as well as athletics. Seventy-four graduates earned a 3.5 or higher. Another 89 contributed more than 250 hours of community service.
“It’s phenomenal to see,’’ she said. “A lot of us alumni still have a heart for Miami Northwestern.’’
Anne-Marie Taglienti, community relations manager and vice president of global philanthropy for JP Morgan Chase, said the company was honored to be a part of the students’ successes.
“The senior awards ceremony was an incredible showcase of the brightest and best talent of the Class of 2013,’’ she said. “Our Education Effect partnership with FIU, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Miami Northwestern is supporting these young graduates in achieving their academic goals and setting them forward on a path to lifelong success.’’
Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president of FIU’s Office of Engagement, said the Education Effect is a perfect example of how FIU strives to partner with the community on important issues.
“We are always looking for ways to combine our instructional, research and creative talents with community partners to improve quality of life,’’ Becerra-Fernandez said. “What we are seeing today is the fruit of those efforts. We couldn’t be more pleased with the results.’’
To learn more about the Education Effect, or to get involved with the project, contact Program Director Maria Lovett at (305) 348-0162.