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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom

Rally to Encourage High School Graduates to Go On to College

Wednesday May 29, 2013

Goal: Make sure high school graduates don’t back off college plans

More than 90 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools graduates apply to college. But only two-thirds of those graduates enter colleges and universities in the fall.

It’s part of a nationwide problem called “summer melt” that 55,000 Degrees, Jefferson County Public Schools and education partners are working to overcome with a new event this Saturday at the Muhammad Ali Center.

“I’m Going to College!” is both a pep rally and a touchstone for college-bound students, said DeWana Hadder, a recent Spalding University graduate who came up with the idea for the event.

“This is a way to come together as a community, to congratulate our high school graduates and to say to them, ‘You can do it!,’” said Hadder, 25.

Hadder’s personal journey to earn her college degree has inspired her career and the event. Hadder is a home/school coordinator at Waggener High School, helping students stay in school and overcome challenges that derail the dream of high school and college diplomas.

“Growing up in a single parent home and being a first generation college graduate, I know how hard it can be to find motivation, especially when you feel like you are alone during that long summer between high school and college,” Hadder said. “This event will show students they are definitely not alone as they get to know other students attending the same college.”

“This is an inspired idea and event for tackling an obstacle to lifelong learning and helping Louisville achieve its goal of being a lead city in earning college degrees,” Mayor Greg Fischer said.

About 300 high school students will hear inspirational words from Hadder, Mayor Fischer, Superintendent Donna Hargens and other community leaders.

Representatives from several area colleges and universities will huddle with incoming students to make sure they have contacts who can answer questions and help with problems such as financial challenges that arise during the summer, said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s commitment to adding 55,000 more college degrees by 2020.

The event will include giveaways designed to help with the transition to college life. Space is limited and you must register to attend at

The event’s sponsors include 55,000 Degrees, Jefferson County Public Schools, Network Center for Community Change, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, 15K Degrees Initiative, Louisville Urban League, Louisville College Awareness Network, Greater Louisville Inc., HIRE,Yum! Brands and the Muhammad Ali Center.