President Obama's "Race to the Top" Challenge

President Obama's "Race to the Top" Challenge

Follow the inspiring journey of the students at Booker T. Washington High School.

Published June 8, 2011

Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis was once a prime example of all that could go wrong in the public education system. But that was before they won President Obama's “Race to the Top" commencement challenge, a competition sponsored by the Viacom Get Schooled Foundation and the White House, which brought the president to Memphis to speak before the graduating class. Tune in tonight, June 8, at 7:30P/6:30C to follow the students' inspiring journey.

 

During his a commencement address last month at the Memphis-based Booker T. Washington High School, President Obama told the 150 graduating seniors that it is because of education he is where he is today.

 

“I’m standing here as president because of the education I received,” Obama said, and because his mother and grandparents pushed him to excel. “I’m glad they kept pushing. I’m lucky my teachers kept pushing. Because education made all the difference in my life. And it’s going to make an even greater difference in your lives—not just for your own success, but for our country’s success."

 

For many of the graduates, growing up in the inner city meant constantly having to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Senior class member Christopher Dean's road to graduation was littered with all of the common pitfalls faced by inner-city youth: poverty, crime and drugs.

 

But it was the image of hopelessness on Dean's face as he watched a bulldozer tear down a housing complex in his neighborhood that may have helped turn things around. Dean  was caught on video that day watching the demolition as 20 percent of the students at Booker T. Washington lost their homes. The video made that day helped the school win the “Race to the Top" commencement challenge.

 

Before he delivered the speech, the president surprised the graduating class by popping into the room where they were holding before the event began. The students were both thrilled and shocked. Most of them cheered and some of them cried.

 

Tune in tonight June 8 7:30P/6:30C to follow the students' inspiring journey.

Written by BET-Staff

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