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Entries in Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge (1)

Tuesday
May102011

Obama to Make Commencement Speech in Waterlogged Memphis

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn., has won a commencement speech by President Obama during their graduation ceremony this spring.

The high school is in an impoverished area close to the site of Martin Luther King's assassination and where Benjamin Hooks, the late head of the NAACP, attended high school. Memphis has been hit hard by recent flooding, as well.

For the second year of the administration’s annual “Commencement Challenge,” schools were asked to submit a video demonstrating their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Booker T. Washington’s video opened to show housing projects being torn down in black-and-white and highlighted how the community and the school rebuilt and helped students gain confidence and skills to graduate.

Six finalists were selected for their “creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready,” the White House said. Of the final three finalists, chosen by votes online, the president chose the final winner personally.

Some of the school’s progress the White House hailed when making the announcement today -- Booker T. Washington High School’s graduation rate went from 55 percent in 2007 to 81.6 percent in 2010.

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