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Deadline Extended: Race to Top Commencement Challenge

By Michele McNeil — February 28, 2011 1 min read
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Do you remember who your high school commencement speaker was? I sure don’t. (I’m not even sure we had a headliner.) But regardless of your politics, the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge offers high school seniors the chance to land a memorable guest speaker: President Barack Obama.

To get more high schools involved in the second year of this competition, the White House is extending the deadline from Feb. 25 until March 11 for schools to nominate themselves to play host to POTUS on graduation day.

The White House wouldn’t say how many applications had been received so far, but given that they extended the deadline, applications must not have been flooding in. (Between the original Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation grants, maybe everyone’s competed out?)

Last year, President Obama delivered the commencement speech at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, the winner among a field of 1,000 applicants and six finalists. Those finalists created short videos and essays on how their schools were preparing them for the future.

More than 170,000 people then voted online for their favorites. The president chose the winner from among the top three vote-getters.

The process this year is similar, although the White House has simplified some parts of the application, such as making some data points optional. Applicants still have to answer such questions as: “Describe specific ways in which your school has prepared you for college and a career,” and “Why should your school win? Discuss what makes your school unique.”

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