More than 30 students glided across the stage with glee in proclamation of their post-secondary plans at the inaugural Gainesville College Signing Day. Parents, family members, school administrators, friends and members of the Greater Gainesville community gathered to celebrate these students for their scholastic achievements and praise them for pursuing post-secondary education, whether a 4-year university, 2-year college, vocational training or the military. The Greater Gainesville Chamber and its foundation, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc., d.b.a. the Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC) piloted this event at Celebration Pointe to celebrate graduating seniors. Celebration Pointe served as one of seven sponsors of the event.

“This community believes in celebrating graduates as they close one chapter of their lives and prepare to transition into their post-secondary careers,” said Chamber President and CEO Eric Godet.

Upon arrival, students checked in at the registration desk and were greeted with a raffle ticket and a green-and-blue Campus USA Credit Union bag, which contained a nametag that identified the student’s post-secondary choice, a matching felt pennant, a 2019 college signing day pennant, a Jones Edmunds & Associates, Inc. pen and miscellaneous goodies. Students then joined their family and friends, some dressed in matching college/university attire in solidarity, for pizza provided by Midici and desserts provided by Decadent A Coffee and Dessert Bar. They continued to enjoy the fun-filled atmosphere with music provided by Genius Entertainment, in anticipation of their special moment.

Each student walked across the stage to receive his/her certificate of commitment and shake hands with Godet, who offered words of wisdom and encouragement. Before exiting the stage, each student signed his/her name on a placard filled with logos of universities, colleges, industry-recognized training programs and the varied branches of military. School administrators and parents were also acknowledged.

Godet continued, “As Nelson Mandela previously stated, ‘Education is the most powerful [tool] which you can use to change the world.’ So it was exciting to see the difference that education has made in the lives of these students and their parents and I eagerly await the positive changes that these young adults will make on the world around them.”

Additionally, three students won a duffle bag filled with Bass Pro Shops swag. Group and individual photos marked the end of the high-spirited program, with students, family, friends and even school administrators socializing and dancing into the night. More than 150 people attended the event, in total.

Each principal of Alachua County’s public and private high schools was asked to identify five to 10 graduating seniors to participate in the pilot. “Because of the success of this year’s program, an invitation to participate in next year’s College Signing Day will be extended to all Alachua County graduating high school seniors who plan to transition into a post-secondary career,” said Chamber Vice President of Education and Talent Alignment Ian Fletcher, who is also credited with developing and leading the ACEC. Fletcher decided to bring College Signing Day to Gainesville after attending a College Signing Day program at the White House in July of 2016. “I thought it was essential for our community to host such a program to give our students, their family and school administrators a chance to celebrate our graduates.” Championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama and hosted by schools, organizations, community leaders and influencers, College Signing Day is a chance to rally around students who have committed to higher education. This event is a way to help young people see college as an option, whether at a traditional 4-year college, a 2-year community college or through an industry-recognized training program or with the military. This national campaign was first launched five years ago. For more photos from College Signing Day or more information about the Gainesville Chamber’s Alachua County Education Compact and its events, visit acedcompact.com.

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