Obama "Commencement Challenge" deadline nears

Think back to your high school graduation -- do you remember who your commencement speaker was? Chances are, the answer is no. Well, that certainly wasn't the case for one special class of seniors last year.

"Early Show" Special Contributor Ayla Brown shares the story of one lucky class in Michigan that won President Obama's "Race to the Top Commencement Challenge," a program, now in it's second year, that invites public high schools across the country to demonstrate how their school best prepares them for college and a career.

The White House is now accepting applications -- and the deadline is this Friday!

Booking a big name to speak at your high school graduation ceremony is no easy feat. But last year's senior class at Kalamazoo Central High School proved school spirit and hard work can pay off in a big way.

Since taking office 25 months ago, Mr. Obama has given hundreds speeches to thousands of people all across this country

But for Kalamazoo Central High School's Class of 2010, one trumps them all.

The president came to the school last June to honor the winners of his very first "Race to the Top Commencement Challenge."

Nicole Allen, a member of Kalamazoo Central's class of 2010, teamed up with fellow students to enter the competition.

Their entry, illustrating the school's diversity, was one of six finalists chosen from more than a thousand applicants.

The Commander-in-Chief hand-picked the winner.

What was moment like? "Oh my gosh, I cried," Allen says. "Little itty bitty Kalamazoo Michigan is on the map."

"I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama hopes the program encourages more kids to graduate from college, but at the very least, it provides lasting memories for students.

"This is history. This is amazing. To be right there so close to him I never thought I'd have that experience in my life," says one student, Kelsey Wilson.

Wilson, a junior last year, received a personal shout-out she'll never forget.

"Hey Kelsey. How are you?" Mr. Obama said. "So Kelsey was quoted as saying, 'We're the kind of school that never gets credit for what we do. And our school is amazing!'"

Now, the search is on for the next commencement challenge winners. And while only one lucky school will receive a visit from Mr. Obama, Allen believes every student will walk away with something special.

"It's a beautiful experience. Even if you don't win who cares. You're part of history, she says.

Mr. Obama plans to again deliver a commencement address to one graduating class at the end of the school year. But you have to be in it to win it. The deadline to apply is this Friday, so get those applications in soon!

Watch the impact that Mr. Obama's "Race To The Top Commencement Challenge" made on the Class of 2010. Apply now - and be a part of history!

  • CBS News Staff

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