More 2020 seniors of Hamilton County Schools will have a head start on their next step in college as the class once again significantly increased the amount of scholarship offers received this year. The Class of 2020 had over $121 million in scholarship offers from colleges and universities, which has steadily increased, moving up from $31 million just two years ago. The total scholarship dollars at this point for the Class of 2020 are $121,773,278.60, with scholarship offers still coming in for graduating seniors.
Officials said, "It is graduation week in Hamilton County Schools and a great week to celebrate scholarships earned by this year’s seniors. Reaching graduation day is an important milestone for high school teens, but it is also a starting point for the rest of a graduate’s life."
Five schools topped $10 million in scholarships this year with the Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, in the Rock Point Learning Community leading the way with $16,625,096. Ooltewah High School, in the Harrison Bay Learning Community, saw graduates received $14,768,484 million in scholarship offers this year, East Hamilton High, in the Missionary Ridge Learning Community, had more than $14,485,110, Soddy Daisy High, of the North River Learning Community, more than $12.5 million, and Signal Mountain High, in the Rock Point Learning Community, more than $10.2 million in scholarship offers.
Two schools were just below $10 million in scholarships with seniors of East Ridge High, in the Missionary Ridge Learning Community, earning offers of more than $9.9 million and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, in the Rock Point Learning Community, receiving over $9.6 million.
Nine additional high schools recorded over $1 million in scholarships. Hixson High had $7.5 million; Central High, $5 million; Red Bank High, $4.8 million; STEM School Chattanooga, $4 million; Sale Creek High, $4 million; Brainerd High, $1.9 million; Tyner Academy, $1.6 million; Collegiate High, $1.2 million; and Lookout Valley High, $1.1 million. Howard High just missed the 1 million mark at $900,000.
The addition of college and career advisors for the 2019-2020 school year played a significant role in the increase of scholarships. The district added 18 full-time advisor positions and a lead advisor support position along with three part-time professionals assisting high school students. Hamilton County Schools has also support team members at every high school this summer, helping the Class of 2020 in all things college and career, from financial aid to transcripts.
“The increased accessibility to professionals to assist our seniors in the scholarship application process had everything to do with the $28 million increase in scholarships we saw this year,” said Sarah Malone, lead college and career advisor for Hamilton County Schools. “Even with a pandemic closure, our advisors diligently worked with every senior to promote and support the Class of 2020.”
Officials said, "One way the district gauges how well we helped to find the 'best college fit' for seniors is the number of post secondary institutions graduates apply to attend. The number increased from 557 in 2019 to 617, an 11 percent increase for the year. Just as the number of colleges to which seniors apply is significant, the acceptance of students at the college level is also an indicator. The acceptance rate rose from 34 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2020. Also, the number of graduates indicating they plan to enroll in college after graduation more than doubled in 2020 from 1,001 last year to 2,059 this year."
Recent examples of senior success stories include Alaina Washington, a graduate of Ooltewah High School, who was recently named a Haslam Scholar at the University of Tennessee. She is one of only 15 incoming freshmen to earn the award. Ms. Washington will receive a scholarship to cover tuition, fees, room and board, stipends to pursue additional experiential learning opportunities and a fully-funded study abroad program. Ms. Washington was president of her Ooltewah Science Olympiad team, co-president of the Model United Nations club, a drum major in the marching band, and secretary of the National Honor Society chapter. A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Ms. Washington earned the Gold Award, advocating for scoliosis awareness in underrepresented community groups. She played flute in the All-State East Honor Band. Ms. Washington plans to major in industrial engineering.
Maggie Wilkinson, a senior at the Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, is a 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholar. Ms. Wilkinson was awarded the honor because of her demonstrated excellence in creative arts. Johns Hopkins University, Brown University, Dartmouth University and Princeton University accepted her for admission, but Ms. Wilkinson selected Princeton. She plans to continue her study of creative writing and English at Princeton University this fall.
DayOnna Carson, a senior at Central High School, is a first-generation college student and has been accepted to numerous colleges, including Harvard University, Wesleyan University, Sewanee University, Washington University, Williams College and Swarthmore College. She is also a Gates Scholarship finalist. Ms. Carson will attend Harvard University in the fall to pursue law.
Additional opportunities to take advanced courses, earn college credit in dual enrollment, participate in Future Ready Institutes and learn advanced concepts in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) courses are part of the success story for graduates of Hamilton County Schools. The action area Future Ready Students in the Future Ready 2023 five-year action plan includes how the district will address better preparing graduates for success after high school. There is also a Focus Five performance target in the plan that includes additional AP and dual enrollment opportunities. The increased opportunity for teens to take advanced courses allows graduates to walk across the stage prepared for success.
“Preparing graduates for success after high school is vital for the future of our graduates, their families, and the community,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “These students have put in the hard work in the classroom, on the playing field, or in artistic development to make scholarships possible, and our teachers, advisers, and counselors help them select course work that is challenging to give them better opportunities.”
Graduations will be held this Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the Class of 2020. The graduation ceremonies were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.