Above, Students from Queen Anne Place Elementary School declare their intention to be prepared for college by the time they graduate.

With graduation season on the horizon, Local District West leaders recently fanned out across the region to recognize the hundreds of students who publicly declared their commitment to attend college after they earn their high school diploma.

During the second annual College Signing Day, Local District West Superintendent Cheryl Hildreth and her team traveled by school bus to high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools, where special events reinforced the importance of college readiness.

Local District West Superintendent Cheryl Hildreth reminds students that learning is a lifelong experience.

“This is really the best day for us as educators,” Hildreth said. “We have worked so hard to make sure that, from the day students begin their education, we are there every step of the way to help them get to where our outstanding seniors are today. We are so proud of everything they’ve done – studying hard, taking their Advanced Placement exams and serving as inspiration to their younger counterparts who will soon be ready to do what they are doing now.”

At every school she visited, Hildreth told  students that learning is a lifelong experience.

“I come to you by way of Howard University in Washington, D.C., continued my learning at Cal State L.A. and Cal State Dominguez Hills, and I am currently enrolled at USC,” she said. “Even when you are far into your career, you always continue learning.”

The day culminated with a gathering at Venice High School, where cheerleaders, dancers and musicians applauded students who declared their plans to attend college, each repeating the day’s theme: “Count me in!”

“Count me in for studying business administration at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,” said Venice High senior Bryce Rodriguez. “I am so grateful that LAUSD is out here supporting us and cheering us on for pursuing higher education. This is what we need to be successful.”

KCBS-Channel 2 sports anchor Jim Hill was among the special guests who joined in the ceremonies.

Sportscaster Jim Hill congratulates Windsor Hills Elementary fifth-grader Amajae Sanusi, who aspires to study vocal music at the Julliard School in New York City.

“I am extremely honored and proud to part of this signing day,” he said. “In my work, when we’re having a signing day, it’s usually about signing athletes to sports teams. But, the kind of signing we’re focusing on today – this is so much more important. The world is changing so rapidly, and all these young men and women are going to be part of that change.”

Throughout the day, leaders reinforced that preparing for college does not begin in high school. Elementary and middle school students were also pledging to be college-ready.

“I’m already committed to attend either UCLA or USC,” said Harmony Thomas, a sixth-grader at Audubon Middle School. “It’s important to know what you want to do now so you can do well in the right classes in middle school and high school. I want to study law, so I am already getting all As and Bs in English and math.”

Students as young as kindergarten were participating in events designed to promote a college-going culture.

“Our kindergarten teachers are already getting their students excited about preparing for college,” said Windsor Hills Elementary Principal Aresa Allen. “The students are excitedly asking their teachers about where they want to go to college, decorating their classroom doors with colors and logos from different colleges, and learning where different colleges are on a map of the United States.

“We invest a lot of time in this,” she said. “Preparing them for their lives after graduation is the most important thing that we do.”