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Staten Island high school seniors participate in nationwide College March | In Class column

IN CLASS: This feature is part of an ongoing education column highlighting the various activities that engage school communities.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — More than 2,200 seniors from 25 high schools across the United States, including Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School in New Springville, participated in the 11th annual College March last month.

“To be here … is a great feeling,” said Sofia Conway, a senior at Gaynor McCown. “I love being supported by my school community. We worked hard for four years to be here, and all that hard work is finally paying off. To be rewarded in this way is a really cool experience.”

Gaynor McCown College March Since most college applications are submitted online nowadays, students mail transcripts, letters and thank-you notes during the College March. (Courtesy/NYC Outward Bound Schools)

On Dec. 10, the seniors took part in the march, a tradition during which seniors march the final supporting pieces of their college applications to local post offices and mail trucks as community members cheer them on. The annual ritual celebrates the perseverance of students and, this year in particular, the support systems that helped them persist through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and prepare for college, career and life.

The nationwide event was started by NYC Outward Bound Schools and promotes the idea that, with the right supports, every student can graduate well-prepared to pursue college as an accessible option — regardless of background or circumstance. During the 2020-21 academic year, 90% of NYC Outward Bound Schools students graduated on time compared to 79% citywide. Overall, the college enrollment rate at these schools has increased 13 percentage points over the past seven years.

“Having students back in person made today [Dec. 10] extra special,” said Richard Stopol, president and CEO of NYC Outward Bound Schools. “This group of students in particular has faced so many challenges caused by the pandemic, so today’s College March is a demonstration of their resilience and their tenacity. It’s really a moment of joy and celebration for our seniors, and I think it also embodies so much of what we teach at Outward Bound — that with the right mix of challenge and support — we are capable of more than we thought possible.

Gaynor McCown College March Kaleigh Donegan, a 12th-grader at Gaynor McCown, shares the special day with her grandfather, Terry Brady of the U.S. Postal Service, who staffed the mail truck at school for the College March. (Courtesy/NYC Outward Bound Schools)

The December date also gives seniors a deadline to work toward in submitting their college applications on time.

“It’s honestly spectacular to see everyone coming together to support us,” said Emma Kharieh, a senior at Gaynor McCown. “The College March is an opportunity to reflect on the last four years of hard work and dedication in high school and explore our options for the future.”

United States Postal Service (USPS) workers also showed students support during the march, as is a College March partner. Since most college applications are submitted online nowadays, students mail transcripts, letters and thank-you notes during the College March.

“We are thrilled to be an integral part of the journey from high school to college,” said USPS District Manager Frank Calabrese. “We have been doing this almost a decade and it means a lot to the kids — and to the community — when they feel supported and celebrated. We are happy to help these kids stamp their future.”

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