May 10, 2019 - It was always clear that attending college would be in the future for Robert E. Lee High School seniors Isaiah Shabazz and Keith Price Jr.
“In my household, it was put in my head at a young age I was going to college,” said Price Jr. “It doesn’t matter what college or what I do. I was going to college.”
What wasn't so clear, say the students, were the steps they needed to take to get to college. This is where the students’ guidance counselors stepped in.
“The counselors are great,” said Shabazz. “Aside from the counselors working with you, they work for you. Everything you want – whether that’s college or attending a college class that you want to get credit for – they’re going to help you with that.”
Guidance counselor Dr. Khristi Keefe emphasized the importance of giving students resources that will make them successful.
“For me, it’s more about trying to make sure that they have access to as many opportunities as possible when they leave Lee,” said Keefe. “To focus on the idea of ‘everything just takes more education,’ we start that on day one.”
Instilling the belief that students are good enough to go to college, and ensuring they are prepared is one of the school's top goals, said Principal Scott Schneider.
"Our kids come from all different walks of life," said Schneider. "Our job is to let them know that they are destined for greatness, regardless of where they came from or where they've been. Whether their path to greatness involves going to a four-year university, enrolling in the military, or going straight into the career field is up to them. They just need to know and to believe that they are equipped for success in whatever path they choose is up to them."
For Schneider, seeing is believing. One of the ways the school helps students see their future is by literally putting it in front of them: hundreds of acceptance letters adorn the hallways, the names of colleges and universities are painted on the stairwells, and
college flags and banners that decorate the ceilings throughout the school.
And students' successes are wildly celebrated. At this year's Academic Signing Day -- a nationwide initiative where seniors publicly declare their post-secondary plans -- Lee held a grand pep-rally style event to recognize the more than 600 college admissions collected and more than $10 million in scholarships.
Shabazz said the Academic Signing Day was a turning point and unique experience for him, as he is the first in his family to be receiving a higher education.
“Thank you to all of the counselors,” said Shabazz. “Not just my counselor, but every counselor at Robert E. Lee High School.”
Price Jr. agreed with Shabazz.
“I’d like to say thank you for motivating us to do better and not giving up on us,” said Price Jr. “They keep pushing us to do better.”
High schools throughout the district are hosting Academic Signing Days. Keep up with all the celebrations on the district’s social media @DuvalSchools.