Santa Barbara High School’s 500 seniors joined thousands of other students across America on Thursday in commemorating the day that college-bound students choose to pursue higher education.
The gathering marked the first-ever SBHS “college signing day,” a celebration of young people pursuing their education in way similar to what many high school athletes do when they commit and sign with their future college teams.
The J.R. Richards Gymnasium was buzzing with excitement as the students took selfies, ate snacks and made mini pennants with the names of the colleges they will attend in the fall.
Paola Villagomez, 18, waved a flag that read Cal State Fullerton. She has decided to live in the dorms on the campus in her freshman year.
“It’s exciting but nerve-wracking,” said Villagomez, a biology major.
The Reach Higher Initiative is former First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to inspire high school students to continue their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.
Whatever path SBHS seniors select, Santa Barbara Junior High Principal Lito Garcia encourages all to continue the school’s legacy that’s positively changing and impacting the community and beyond.
He is confident the seniors can succeed.
“I’m not going to ask you what you want to be after you graduate,” said Garcia, a SBHS alumnus. “I want to know what you want to change. I want to know what you want to improve.”
Garcia encouraged students to pursue their dreams and proudly take their place as leaders in the world.
“Keep moving forward,” Garcia said. “Don’t give up.”
Garcia said he believes there’s no such thing as a self-made individual, and it’s not possible for an individual to have success without support.
“Everyone has somebody in their lives, whether that’s today or somebody you have not met, that will help guide you, inspire, encourage and maybe even give you a swift kick in the ass to get you to where you need to be — to get you to who you can be,” Garcia said. “Cultivate those relationships so that you can be the person to cause change.”
Principal Elise Simmons, an alumna of the UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, said feeling nervous or worried will eventually go away. She shared some advice with the students and encouraged asking for help.
“It will be replaced with a feeling of pride, commitment, and feeling good about all of the choices you made,” Simmons said. “If you are feeling nervous, worried, concerned, confused — all of those things right now — please remember to ask for help and communicate with those family members, friends or the adult in your life… that can give you advice.”
Simmons told the large crowd to stay positive and focused on setting goals beyond high school graduation. She advised students to write down specific plans for their future.
“When you write your goals, aim high,” she said.
Simmons is the second woman to lead SBHS in its more than 140 year history. She was named principal in 2018.
The school year is winding down, and SBHS seniors have less than 50 days until their graduation ceremony.
“It’s my hope that you will walk out of the gym door at the end of the seminar — with your attendance slip in your hand — but also with ideas, encouragement and motivation to continue to work hard in life and to go after your passions and dreams,” Simmons told the students.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.