Thousands gather at Wells Fargo Center for College Signing Day

The #ReachHigherPhilly event was part of former First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Seniors from high schools all over the city gathered at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday to be celebrated for pursuing a post-secondary education.

Thousands were invited to the third annual #ReachHigherPhilly College Signing Day, an event hosted by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.

“College is one of the pathways to a successful career, and we are committed to preparing all students for college and career,” said William R. Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.

The Reach Higher Initiative is an effort created to inspire high school students to complete a post-secondary education, whether it is college or professional training.

“What I want the students to understand is that this is in celebration of them,” Hite said. “And this is celebrating their accomplishments, and we’re very excited. I am so glad to see the students are equally excited.”

Quamia Wells, a senior at West Philadelphia High School, is on her way to Shippensburg University to study nursing. She said she wants to go to college because she wants “to be something in life.”

“College is important nowadays,” she said. “Nowadays you can’t get a job without a degree. So college is your only choice. Try to make it.”

Besides Hite, speakers for the students included Don Yu, director of the Better Make Room campaign; Kelli-Ann Caplin, vice president of the board at CF Charities; Larry Caplin, founder of CF Charities; and Otis Hackney, Philadelphia’s chief education officer.

Eric Waldo, executive director of the Reach Higher Initiative, served as keynote speaker.

A local dance team and a marching band performed at the event, as did recording artist Wale. He surprised the audience and did songs from his recently released album, Shine.