NEW YORK–Three outstanding high schools have been named College Board 2007 Inspiration Award winners for improving the academic environment and helping students achieve equitable access to higher education despite social, economic, and cultural challenges. Each winning school receives a $25,000 award, and each of the four honorable mention schools receives $1,000 to apply toward programs that encourage students to attend college.

Remarking on today´s announcement, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, "In today´s competitive economy, a college education is becoming a necessity. Schools like these should be commended for helping more students achieve and pursue higher education. They´re setting a great example for other schools–proving that hard work and high expectations help students succeed."

The Inspiration Awards honor those high schools that initiate unique programs and create partnerships among teachers, parents, community organizations, and local businesses to help more students pursue a college education.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said in a statement, "This is the second consecutive year a Virginia public high school has been recognized by the College Board with the honor of an Inspiration Award. I have long maintained that if students in Virginia are challenged and supported, they will soar past competence to excellence. This school is a model for that ideal."

This year´s College Board Inspiration Award winners are:

*Denbigh High School, Newport News, Virginia

*G.W. Brackenridge High School, San Antonio, Texas

*Stranahan High School, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

"The College Board is honored to recognize these exemplary schools that inspire their students to work toward college success, despite economic challenges," said College Board Senior Vice President for College Readiness Eric Smith. "These dedicated administrators, teachers, and community leaders go above and beyond to set remarkably high expectations for all of their students and provide exceptional academic opportunities."

Denbigh High School

Denbigh High School is located in Newport News, Va., a medium-sized city with a large military presence. The school has a diverse enrollment of more than 1,640 students, of whom 52 percent are African American, 6 percent are Hispanic, and 6 percent are Asian; 45 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The school is constantly adapting to the needs of its students through various activities focusing on preparation for college.

Denbigh High School engages a student before he or she attends high school by partnering with "feeder" middle schools to provide a five-week summer transition program for rising freshmen, including courses in English, writing, algebra, and character development. The school´s Patriot Passport Program was created to help decrease the dropout rate and help students through their ninth-grade transition. This includes providing students with mentors and other means of support throughout their first year in high school.

"Denbigh High aimed well beyond the Standards of Learning and challenged students to reach higher, to strive for more, and to achieve more, and they have met that challenge," Kaine said. "I want to thank Principal Michael Evans and his outstanding faculty and staff for providing excellent instruction and support. I would also like to thank the College Board for recognizing hard working schools that defy the odds, increasing the number of students participating in Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) and go on to attend institutions of high education."

In addition to the Patriot Passport Program, Denbigh High School created the First Generation Project, again with the help of middle schools. Working in tandem, the schools identify rising freshmen who are the first in their immediate families on track to graduate from high school or apply to college. The program provides much-needed guidance and direction on the college application process through after-school and evening programs. Parents and students of all grade levels meet with school officials to discuss information on postsecondary education, each year focusing on different topics including career development and financial aid.

Denbigh High School has open enrollment in honors and Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) courses, and provides after-school tutorial support. As such, the faculty attends professional development classes when possible to learn new teaching techniques to meet the ever-changing needs of Denbigh´s diverse student population.

In addition to preparing students for the academic challenges of college, Denbigh administrators are also focused on the overall well-being of their students. One mother, who is also a nurse, said, "I informed Denbigh of the unusually high pockets of teen pregnancy in the district, and the Health and Physical Education teachers worked with Principal Evans to include a Virginia Department of Health class that specifically addresses reproductive health and pregnancy prevention." She continued, "This brave step will surely preserve college aspirations for many vulnerable students." This is just one example of varied efforts Denbigh High School makes to ensure student success and aspirations for higher education.

G.W. Brackenridge High School

This school year, G.W. Brackenridge High School, located in San Antonio, Texas, has ten Advanced Placement Program (AP) scholars, one National Commended Scholar, six Hispanic Scholars, and one African American Scholar. Last school year, five of its students were accepted to Notre Dame, more than any other high school in Texas. Although Brackenridge is 100 percent Title I and a school with a diverse enrollment of more than 1,850 students, of whom 97 percent are from minority backgrounds, nearly 70 percent of its seniors are accepted to colleges and universities, earning $22 million in scholarships in the past two years.

G.W. Brackenridge High School has the challenge of moving incoming students from a barely passing rate of 40 percent on the state tests in eighth grade to preparing them for the rigors of honors and AP courses. Brackenridge prepares its traditionally underserved students for higher education by requiring all students to follow a college-preparatory curriculum. Beginning in ninth grade, students are required to take a focused Freshmen Prep course that promotes study skills, career exploration, and goal setting to help students graduate and achieve their goals. Tenth-graders campuswide take the PSAT/NMSQT® and PLAN tests, and resulting data are used to design and implement a master schedule with an intensive curriculum.

With the Inspiration Award funds, G.W. Brackenridge High School students will conduct a career interest inventory, matching their career interests with campuses both in and outside of Texas. Instructional coordinators and the principal will network with businesses in the community to facilitate career-shadowing opportunities for students. Staff will coordinate financial aid information workshops for parents in both Spanish and English, as nearly 90 percent of students are Hispanic. Additionally, Brackenridge plans to use the Inspiration Award grant to allow students to visit at least two college campuses as they research opportunities.

Stranahan High School

Stranahan is a school with an enrollment of more than 1,750 students, of whom nearly 88 percent are from minority backgrounds and 57 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Yet almost 25 percent of Stranahan´s students took an AP Exam in 2006, with 720 AP Exams scheduled to be administered this May. The second oldest high school in Broward County, Stranahan´s groundbreaking work with a traditionally underserved population has been cited in the National Association of Secondary School Principals´ Breaking Ranks II and the Pathways to College Network´s A Shared Agenda.

Stranahan High School´s DragonFest, a schoolwide weekly advisory where students learn about college guidelines and postsecondary education, has become a model for other area high schools. Created and guided by teachers, this program encourages excellence with a goal of successful transitions. Stranahan also participates in Broward County´s Urban Teacher Academy Program (UTAP), designed to prepare high school students for careers in education and to support them as they matriculate through postsecondary education with the goal of becoming urban school teachers in their own communities.

Stranahan´s small learning communities also promote opportunities for students to be exposed to the world of work and careers with frequent internships at local businesses and hospitals. Stranahan´s ninth-grade academy, known as the Community Career Research, Exploration, and Successful Transition (CREST), was created to help ninth-graders successfully transition to high school while exploring careers. Additionally, CREST provides students with a Human Resources Day and a Career Day during which students are introduced to more than a dozen professionals from various fields. The other four academies, serving tenth- through twelfth-graders, have a diverse board of directors who ensure that these academies are career-focused, technology-enhanced, student-centered, and outcome-based.

As Devin Avery, of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners says, "The commitment to ensuring equity and excellence from every stakeholder at Stranahan High School is unparalleled. Stranahan High School certainly deserves this recognition."

Awards Reflect Importance of Access to Higher Education

"The 2007 Inspiration Award winners are models of excellence with proven success in closing the achievement gap. They are an inspiration to all those working hard to provide the opportunity of college success to all students," said Caperton.

A distinguished panel of Inspiration Award judges selected this year´s winners based on the school´s success in increasing the number of students (from all school demographic groups) being prepared for college.

The 2007 Inspiration Award judges included:

*Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees

*Edwidge Danticat, Miami-based writer

*Sarah Jones, playwright, actor, and poet

*Randy Siegel, publisher, PARADE magazine

*Chauncey Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year

College preparedness gains were measured based on a variety of factors, including the percentage of students taking college-preparatory core curriculum courses; the percentage of students accepted to two- or four-year colleges; and growth in student participation in rigorous classes such as AP, International Baccalaureate, or other honors programs. Beyond meeting basic eligibility requirements, the Inspiration Award?winning schools were selected for their innovative ability to inspire student success.

The following schools are recipients of the College Board 2007 Inspiration Award Honorable Mention and each school has received a $1,000 award:

*Edinburg High School, Edinburg, Texas

*Hogan Preparatory Academy, Kansas City, Missouri

*Paramount High School Senior Campus, Paramount, California

*Eastside College Preparatory School, East Palo Alto, California

More information about the College Board Inspiration Awards is available at

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