There’s nothing quite like walking around with former First Lady Michelle Obama when she’s meeting students for the first time. I’ve seen her stroll across a campus dorm quad at Howard University, taking a tour with Chicago high school seniors. The roar of college kids pressed against the quad gate and the deafening shouts of “We LOVE YOU!” from the adjoining dorm rooms made think that this must have been what it was like to walk around with the Beatles. I’ve also been in the room when Mrs. Obama has surprised a group of students on a White House tour—that high pitched yelp followed by clapping elation—the is-this-really-happening euphoria that often manifests in spontaneous outburst of tears that don’t stop, even after getting a hug.
Since the launch of the Better Make Room campaign, Mrs. Obama and our valuable partners have worked hard around the nation to launch big events, new initiatives and inspiring PSAs. We’ve launched nationwide essay contests through Seventeen Magazine and MTV Founders. We launched Up Next, a texting initiative that provides resources for students. We’ve invited students to the White House for Beating the Odds. We’ve seen thousands of students make commitments to their futures, plan for college, apply for their FAFSA ahead of time, and lock their eyes on the future—where they have the potential to be whatever it is that they want to be. And of course, we’ve put on incredibly high-energy events in New York for National College Signing Day.
And no, not *that* college signing day. When we’re out there celebrating signing day every spring, it’s not about high school athletes telling us where they plan to play ball, but rather America’s high school seniors standing up and proudly proclaiming where they’ll be continuing to study after high school. And the seniors do this every year on around May 1, the deadline by which seniors around the country have to let colleges know where they plan to attend.
Last year? We had more than 1,200 events in all 50 states. In NYC, you could walk into Times Square and see student stories, pictures, and tweets plastered on the America Eagle Outfitters billboards. Because on College Signing Day, students are the stars. They’re the ones who we should be celebrating. And we haven’t stopped. This is only the beginning. You can go to bettermakeroom.org to register your event, download a signing day kit—and even learn how to win $500 from the College Football Playoff Foundation and Donors Choose for your event. This year, we’re celebrating College Signing Day on May 5. So on May 5, grab that college gear and post a selfie on social media with the #CollegeSigningDay and #BetterMakeRoom.
About the Author: Eric Waldo is the Executive Director of Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, which now resides at Civic Nation. Reach Higher encourages young people to pursue and complete their education past high school, whether via a two year degree, a four year degree, or an industry recognized credential, but some education past high school has to be the goal for every young person to be competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy. He resides in Washington, DC, and is always proud to iron his Brown University t-shirt for College Signing Day.