Community support, community pride helped launch the Class of 2014

Christine M. Johns

This year, more than 2,250 Utica Community Schools graduating seniors are leaving our classrooms to advance to the next chapter of their lives.

As a lifelong educator, I could not be more proud of the character, work ethic and accomplishments of these young adults – our Class of 2014.

What makes me even more pleased is that UCS graduates are taking with them a competitive advantage over their peers, thanks to this remarkable community. The entire UCS community can be justifiably proud of the accomplishments of the Class of 2014.

Our graduates have excelled in academics, athletics and fine arts at statewide and national levels. They have been accepted to universities across Michigan and literally coast to coast. Their successes were nurtured by a community that supported them as they grew into caring, productive young adults.

Now as never before, high school graduates face fierce competition. Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly selective, looking well beyond a student’s academic performance as a basis for admission.
For example, the Detroit News recently described this fall's incoming University of Michigan freshmen this way: “…a future Wolverine also has an imposing profile outside of the high school classroom, officials say. Students applying to U-M volunteer, tutor and raise money for worthy causes. They also publish books, develop apps, travel and even start their own businesses.” The same can be said at Michigan State and other top tier universities.

Employers as well are seeking to add workers who can demonstrate a wide range of skills and knowledge – even for entry-level positions. Businesses that partner with the district tell us that when choosing individuals for highly skilled jobs they look for more than postsecondary degrees. They look for candidates who also possess a strong work ethic, can solve problems and contribute as part of a team.

It is here that UCS graduates have the distinct advantage. Our students are not only products of a nationally recognized and respected school district; they also come from a community built on a tradition of hard work and ingenuity. They have the advantage of growing up in a place where high personal standards and concern for others are expected.

I recently witnessed a group of our graduating seniors displaying these important traits during the district’s annual Superintendent’s Scholarship process. The selection committee received 130 applications this year, with 35 scholarships awarded. The selection method is not unlike a college admissions experience.

While all the applicants proved deserving – showing exceptional academic promise in a rigorous curriculum including Career and Technical Education and/or Advanced Placement courses – the recipients were selected because they possess something extra, something nurtured from the opportunities this community offers.

Because of community leaders who care about young people, their education and their future, the students were able to explore careers and learn workplace skills in local offices, businesses and industries.

Because of caring adults who lead community charities, the students were able to take part in service activities, helping others in local hospitals, churches, shelters and nursing homes.

These graduates are representative of the competitive advantage Utica Community Schools provides all of its students. It is that advantage that will enable them and their classmates to compete and succeed in the best arenas – whether in college, the workplace or military service.

And so, on behalf of more than 2,250 families who are celebrating a son or daughter’s graduation from one of our high schools this year, we thank you, residents and members of the entire UCS school community.
Thank you for helping nurture these young men and women and providing opportunities that are opening doors for them and their entire generation. You have good reason to be proud.

Together, we have made this difference. And we could not have done it without you!

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