In the News

CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Banner Staff Writer

When you hear of a high school “signing day,” you usually picture an athlete signing a commitment to a college upon having received a scholarship to play a sport there.

However, Bradley Central High School has turned the idea on its head by holding “Academic Signing Day” on Monday to give students receiving scholarships for their academic achievements their own place in the spotlight.

The event brought students, college admissions representatives, parents and teachers together for the “signing” of academic scholarships.

“These kids have worked hard for three years — or more — to get where they are today,” said Karen Winters, parent engagement coordinator of Bradley County Schools GEAR UP program. “They’re our classroom stars, so we wanted to recognize them.” 

GEAR UP  — Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs — is a Tennessee Higher Education Commission initiative funded by a federal grant providing for college readiness programs throughout Tennessee.

Kate Derrick, communications director of the state’s GEAR UP program, said 70 high schools across the state are expected to host such events.

“It’s an exciting trend that’s taking off,” Derrick said.

She added the Tennessee Higher Education Commission supports schools taking the time to honor students because “it’s not something that every student does.” In a state where higher education is highly touted, she said schools should look for ways to make positive examples of students who have gone above and beyond in their work.

Bradley Central’s graduating seniors were invited to sign up for the optional Academic Signing Day event, and 20 were expected to participate.

A table draped with a Bradley Central-themed tablecloth sat in front of a backdrop with a similar theme, and the scene was very much like one would expect to see at an athletics signing.

The difference was who was at the table.

Seniors receiving academic scholarships were invited to have family members and favorite teachers who contributed to their successes join them for photos.

As students smiled for photos being taken by proud family members, school officials and others, they signed spaces on congratulatory certificates indicating they had received scholarships to attend college.

Bradley County Schools Supervisor of Secondary Education Dan Glasscock, who joined in on some of the photos, said he was “extremely excited” about the opportunity to honor students and the teachers who helped them achieve.

While he stressed he did not want to “minimize” the accomplishments of Bradley County’s school athletes, he said the school system is increasingly looking for ways to promote those who do well in other areas, or more than one area.

“Everyone has different talents, whether in academics, music, sports or a combination of those things,” Glasscock said.

Conversations with a few of the seniors indicated they are preparing to use their diverse talents to launch careers in a variety of fields.

Gabriela Ortiz received a scholarship to attend Lee University, and she said her plan is to major in elementary education. Meanwhile, Victoria Noble plans to study communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Twins Alex and Seth Hall both plan to attend the University of Tennessee for different courses of study. Alex plans to major in mechanical engineering, while Seth will major in music education.

For some students, like Ortiz, Academic Signing Day was not the kind of event students thought they would see when they pursued college scholarships unrelated to sports.

“I really like it, though,” Ortiz said. “It rewards those who really do work hard.” 

Drew Fry, an admissions officer from UTC, said he had never heard of a signing day like the one held at Bradley Central. However, he said it’s “nice to do” because most people only hear of the sports signings.

Winters said she hopes to see the event continue next year and for the idea to catch on at other area schools, so students skilled in areas like English, math and science can get their due.

Source: Cleveland Daily Banner