College Signing Day Held to Inspire Students and Celebrate Success
April 22,

April 22, 2016 – More than 1,000 college-bound seniors in Jefferson County have been recognized for their commitment to go to college and earn a degree. The students were honored today at the College Signing Day 2016 celebration held at the KFC Yum! Center. This is the second year that Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), the KFC Yum! Center and 55,000 Degrees – Louisville’s higher education movement – have teamed up to host the event, which is held in association with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative.

“Each of the students gathered at this event are taking an important step – one that will not only secure their financial future, but will also help build the skilled workforce our city needs to remain competitive,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees. “It’s important to celebrate these important decisions.”

Students from 25 JCPS high schools attended the celebration and heard from inspiring guests, met with representatives from their colleges and had a chance to meet with other JCPS students planning to attend the same school. Representatives from nearly two dozen colleges and universities, as well as the military, were in attendance this year for College Signing Day.

“Our JCPS vision is for all students to graduate prepared, empowered and inspired to reach their full potential, and one important way for us to reach that goal is by celebrating the success of our students and recognizing their commitment to go to college and earn a degree,” said JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens. “With high school graduation quickly approaching, College Signing Day offers seniors a fun and unique opportunity to get a jump start on planning for their new and exciting college experience in the fall.”

Student panelists from the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, Spalding University, Jefferson Community & Technical College and Simmons College of Kentucky took part in a roundtable discussion and shared some of their college experiences with students. The College Signing Day celebration targets first-generation college students and is designed get students excited about college and reduce “summer melt,” a phenomenon where high school students accepted to college don’t follow through in the fall.

“Wouldn’t it be great if every student’s college signing moment was as closely watched as those of athletes?” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “This is a great day when we celebrate the college signing of our future engineers, accountants, nurses, teachers and business leaders. They’ve taken an important first step to a great career – namely getting accepted by a college or university and committing to go!”

After the roundtable discussion, students fanned across the concourse of the KFC Yum! Center to participate in a series of breakout information sessions, where college representatives as well as representatives from UPS and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) provided valuable advice to students. New this year, approximately 60 JCPS middle school students also had the opportunity to attend College Signing Day and learn about the importance of completing their education past high school.

“We are thrilled to once again collaborate with JCPS and 55,000 Degrees to recognize students for their academic excellence and plans to continue their education,” said AEG Facilities’ KFC Yum! Center General Manager Dennis Petrullo. “It’s important for us to give back to the community and helping to shine a spotlight on the next generation of this city’s potential leaders is one of many ways we seek to do that.”

During their breakout sessions, seniors received a certificate with their school’s logo and returned to the bowl of the arena where they signed their commitment to continue their education and earn their degree.

Students also heard an inspiring message from keynote speaker Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson.  Recently featured on the Food Network and The Rachael Ray Show, Ferguson shared with the students his journey to becoming a chef and how to achieve goals through tenacity.

During College Signing Day, students were encouraged to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag #SignLou.

College Signing Day would not have been possible without the hard work and support of many individuals. Special thanks to:

  • Ben Davis and Kelly K. (WDJX)
  • UPS
  • Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA)
  • KFC Yum! Center

55,000 Degrees

55,000 Degrees is the ambitious initiative launched in 2010 with the goal of having 50 percent of Louisville’s working-age adults with college degrees by 2020. In 2014, Louisville had the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history at 41.5 percent. More information about 55,000 Degrees is available at

The Reach Higher Initiative

The Reach Higher initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of 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. For more information, visit

Jefferson County Public Schools

Educating more than 100,600 students a year, Jefferson County Public Schools is the largest school district in Kentucky and the 27th largest school system in the United States.  The district boasts 18 magnet schools and 52 magnet programs at all levels, offers Advanced Placement classes at every school, and is home to 15 Five Star career-themed high schools, with the goal of creating community leaders who graduate college and career ready.


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