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Kresge celebrates the Class of 2023 and College Signing Day


Students’ choice to attend college is a pivotal one. College Signing Day was created by Reach Higher, an initiative developed in 2014 by Michelle Obama to celebrate every student in America committing to continue their education beyond high school — whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. The event was modeled after NCAA’s National Signing Day, which celebrates student athletes committing to play sports at the collegiate level.

Since then, with funding from our Education Team and other supporters, Reach Higher has helped to organize celebratory events across the country each May 1.

A group photo of a Detroit College Access Network event in 2015 featuring First Lady Michelle Obama.
The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) hosted the first citywide College Signing Day event in 2015 at Wayne State University featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo courtesy of DCAN)

College Signing Day began in 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. The next year, Ms. Obama visited Detroit to host the national celebration. They chose Detroit to recognize the significant increase in citywide FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion, which was led by the Detroit College Access Network, an Education Program grantee, and whose founder and former executive director is Kresge Education Program Officer Ashley Johnson.

The pep rally event took place at Wayne State University and brought together more than 2,000 high school seniors from over 40 Detroit high schools. Ms. Obama delivered the following message to Detroit students: “Many of you had to take long bus rides or walk through dangerous streets just to get to school and really make something of your life. You are the heroes.”

Our Education team remains committed to addressing racial and economic gaps and working to increase college access and success while reducing inequitable student outcomes.

Over the years, Kresge has been celebrating College Signing Day and engaging staff to commemorate this special day by honoring students’ choices and reflecting on how college has made an impact on our lives and careers.  Here is look back at our College Signing Day celebrations featuring current and former Kresge staff:

2016: College Signing Day is a chance to honor students

2020: College Signing Day goes virtual as COVID disrupts education

2021: Passing the diploma

Kresge staff showed up virtually to celebrate students by passing the degree to Detroit student, Morgan Henderson, who shared her decision to attend Howard University:

2022: Audio diaries

In 2022, schools shifted to adapt to the constant change of the pandemic by offering in-person and virtual classes. Students continued to face many disruptions including a mental health crisis, loss of loved ones, COVID outbreaks, social anxiety, and academic loss. To capture the experiences of graduating seniors, we asked students from across the country to share their thoughts in audio diaries on what College Signing Day means to them. 

Listen to all the audio diaries here.

2023: The impact of going to college

Finally, after three years, we were able to meet in-person to commemorate this special event as Kresge staff reflect on how going to college made an impact on their lives:

Kresge Board Chair Cecilia Muñoz on who inspired her to make the decision to attend college:

Kresge Board Chair Cecilia Muñoz

“My parents made it clear from the time my siblings and I were born that we would be going to college, and they saved and sacrificed to make it possible for us. They were immigrants, and my mother never had the opportunity to study beyond high school, but my dad’s college education was what made it possible for them to achieve their American dream and their number one priority was to make sure their children had the same opportunity. Like my dad and my grandfather before him (and my daughter after me!) I went to the University of Michigan. College made everything possible for my family.”