Romona's Kids: Academic Signing Day - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Romona's Kids: Academic Signing Day

We've all heard of college co-op programs that give students real workplace experience, even before graduation. But one local school is doing the same thing for high school kids, and it's helping them earn big college scholarships! We met tonight's Romona's Kids in Cleveland.

On graduation day at St. Martin de Porres High School, seniors march through the neighborhood to the cheers of family and friends. But even before the big day, there is another celebration, called "Academic Signing Day."  Many schools focus on their athletes, but St. Martin focuses on the students who got it done in the classroom and earned academic college scholarships.

This year's senior class earned scholarships to schools both in Ohio and out of state, including Case Western Reserve, John Carroll University, Miami University, Xavier, Ohio Dominican University, Loyola University of Maryland, and Spring Hill College.

"For many of our families, this student may be the first in their family to be accepted to college or to be going off to college, and we want to celebrate that, and honor them," said interim principal Keri Grady.

The students get a private, college-prep education thanks to a unique partnership with Cleveland businesses and non-profits, working one day a week to offset the cost of tuition. Twins Max and Richard Colon both earned scholarships to Baldwin Wallace University.  

"It's helped me figure out what I enjoy most, which is software engineering," said Max Colon.

"I'm very excited, it's a whole new step for us and I'm hoping to bunk with this guy so it should be great," said Richard Colon.

Valedictorian Rachel Reeves has a form of cerebral palsy and says she doesn't know where she'd be without St. Martin High School. "St. Martin has done more for me than  I can ever say, it's become an epicenter of change for me," said Reeves. "They were able to listen to my story with an open mind and change their attitude about people like me, and that takes a very special place in order to do that, it's incredible here," said Reeves.

Each of these students is living the school's mission of "Transforming urban Cleveland, one student at a time."

"Towards the end of the year I wasn't even sure about college, and they really pushed me to make sure that I was getting scholarships," said student Lydia Welchans, who will study psychology at Notre Dame College.

"To work at Parker Hannifin World Headquarters all four years is just an experience I'd never get to experience anywhere else," said student Summer Soltis, who plans to get a dual degree in biology and biomedical engineering at Spring Hill College.

"We're very close-knit, like a family, and being with people I can be comfortable around, I was able to find my inner self and become who I wanted to be, the person I am today," said student Ashante Irvin, who will be double majoring in social work and secondary education at Xavier.  

"With the school and the program combined, it's probably the only reason I'm going to college because it wouldn't have been affordable without their help," said student Julia Cedeno. "The teachers pushed me to do really well so I got the grades to get a lot of scholarships and make college affordable," said Cedeno, who will attend Case Western Reserve University.

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