The sun seemed to shine especially bright on the expansive courtyard inside Lely High School where Lia Okenkova signed a ceremonial academic letter of intent. The number one ranking senior and valedictorian of Lely’s 2019 graduating class earned a full academic scholarship from Vanderbilt University. She has served as president of Scholar Bowl for the past two years and traveled around Florida representing Lely in academic competitions through the math honor society Mu Alpha Theta. “I love the abundance of experiences I had from the school events to the classes I got to take as well as all the time I had with my friends and teachers here,” Lia said after being honored by her school.
Sounds from the Lely Trojan Band filled the courtyard while students eating lunch looked on at the honorees. Lely Principal Ellen Keegan and school administrators celebrated, not just Lia, but all 150 Lely seniors who have been accepted into a college or university. Each person heard their name booming through the speakers, received a certificate of achievement, and then signed their name to a banner celebrating Academic Signing Day.
Within hours, school staff posted pictures of Academic Signing Day on Twitter using the handle @WeAreLely to spread the news: “Great day at Lely HS as we recognized Lia and the rest of the seniors as they make a commitment to continue their education after high school!”
“That’s the best part about being a principal at a high school, honestly, to see that accomplishment,” said a beaming Principal Ellen Keegan. “I’m really lucky because I’ve been at Lely for many, many years so I’ve seen these kids start as freshman and finish as seniors. To see their accomplishment makes it all worthwhile.”
Top-notch student-athletes who often receive multiple college offers and announce where they are going to take their talents are used to the star treatment – from the suspenseful team hat choice to crowded school auditoriums with media members hanging on to every word coming from a blue-chip athlete. Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) now gives similar treatment to academic scholars who make their communities proud. Leadership at each school has the freedom to make their event unique. At each campus, academic achievement is celebrated as the more than 7,000 CCPS employees carry out the mission to ensure students are college, career, and life ready when they walk across the stage at graduation.
“So happy to support our students and the staff who make it possible for these kids to achieve great things,” said School Board Member Jen Mitchell after attending Academic Signing Day at Gulf Coast High School which honored five students going on to attend Ivy League colleges in the fall. “Our superintendent [Dr. Kamela Patton] recognizes the importance of kids whose pathway may not be college, and so [schools] also do career signing days.”
In the month of May, all CCPS high schools held either a college or career academic signing day. Each student in the #CCPSFamily has his or her own story with the ability to carve a unique pathway.
Back at the Lely courtyard, Lia discussed plans to pursue a double major focused on cognitive studies as well as human and organizational development. “Sophomore year I took AP Psychology, and I really got interested in the field of psychology,” Lia explained. “Then I realized I was more interested in the specific field under psychology of cognitive science and the way the brain works in relation to learning and how we interact with each other.”
Congratulations to all the seniors graduating in the Class of 2019. We are #CCPSProud of you and look forward to celebrating your future endeavors.