IOWA CITY — High School senior Kaalon Williams stood in Iowa City High School’s busy main foyer on College Signing Day, proudly wearing a lanyard that announced her plans to attend Mount Mercy University this fall.
“I’m excited,” she said Wednesday, explaining her plans to study nursing and business. She then gave her 16-year-old brother a high five.
Nearly 375 members of City High’s senior class declared their future plans during the school’s inaugural “Futures Day,” a culminating activity after four years of preparing for college, work and other post-high school plans.
Guidance counselor Linda Hoel said she planned the event in order to recognize and celebrate all City High grads’ futures.
“We wanted to put the emphasis on academics, and this is National College Signing Day, but we didn’t want to be just college signing,” Hoel said. “We have a very diverse population, and they aren’t all going to college. So we’re calling it ‘Futures Signing,’ and they can put anything.”
At the event, Hoel handed out lanyards and name tags where students could write down down their plans. Many wrote they had enrolled at the University of Iowa or Kirkwood Community College. A few said they were headed to Ivy League schools, and others still said they planned to take a year off to travel, work in apprenticeships or enlist in the National Guard.
In recent years, a growing number of schools and students have celebrated students’ college plans in early May. In 2014, then-First Lady Michelle Obama shepherded the start of College Signing Day in an effort to praise all students headed to college, not just student-athletes signing to play college sports.
Most colleges and universities have a May 1 deadline for graduates to commit to attending in the fall. For many high school seniors, the deadline marks the beginning of the end of their high school careers — which officially wrap with graduation ceremonies scheduled throughout the Corridor later this month.
For City High grads looking forward to what’s next, the event was a way to answer a question some students said is heard often in hallways — “Where are you going?”
“The whole recognition aspect is pretty cool because normally, in the past, it’s only been athletes signing toward their intended colleges,” said Brady Vanlo, a senior headed to the UI. “It’s pretty cool that the rest of the senior class gets that recognition, and we all get to find out where all of our friends are going next year.”
The event also marked the official end to the often stressful college application process. Securing teacher recommendations, sending in test scores and writing college essays consumed many students’ time this year, senior Stephen Henkhaus said.
Other school districts throughout the Corridor also are recognizing graduates this month. High school seniors in the Cedar Rapids Community School District plan to visit elementary schools in their caps and gowns later this month.
Events highlighting seniors’ successes, Hoel said, serve as a reminder for younger students.
“We wanted to act as a model for underclassmen also, to understand they have futures coming up,” Hoel said. “So their course planning and all that kind of thing is important — because their future will be here soon.”
l Comments: (319) 398-8330; firstname.lastname@example.org