Come May 1st of my senior year, I still hadn't made a decision of where I wanted to to go in the fall. I had a few options but felt little compulsion to dedicate myself. In all honesty, I wasn't excited about college; I was excited just to leave high school. More of a "it's done," attitude than a "what's next?" attitude.
Five years later, my May 1st, 2015, was all about the "what's next?".
When I started at MHS in March, I immediately noted a reoccurring theme in my many debriefings with teachers and administrators at the school: "Have you heard about Decision Day?"
By the time I showed up at the school, posters with college logos and student names already littered the walls. These, I found out, identified schools into which students had already been accepted. Before I knew it, I was discussing college plans with my seniors, encouraging them (sometimes forcefully) to get the office their acceptance letters and letters of intent, and helping them make posters of their chosen school or military branch for the Decision Day walk.
During the week of Decision Day, teachers were permitted to wear their college shirts. College fight songs played over the PA in between classes. Students got the opportunity to attend a college/career fair. It was all about emphasizing and celebrating an intentional decision.
Then, finally, the seniors spent the last two hours of their day in the auditorium enjoying what turned out to be a pre-graduation graduation ceremony, complete with a keynote speaker and a walk across the stage. When called, the principal read the student's name and their chosen post-high school path, and the students proudly displayed their posters as they walked across the stage to a table where they would sign their letter of intent to their chosen institution.
According to the principal, 90% of the graduating class had declared their intents by Decision Day.
As far as I can tell, it was a raving success, and not just for the seniors. Yes, they felt encouraged to define their plans and look forward to their next steps, but the culture created led to a lot of conversations that encouraged and informed even my freshmen in regards to college. Through Decision Day, MHS has created not just a day of celebration, but a culture of celebration and encouragement when it comes to intentionally moving forward after high school.