JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students and staff at Robert E. Lee High School on Jacksonville’s Westside are getting excited for National College Signing Day next week.
News4Jax is teaming up with local schools in the Reach Higher and Better Make Room campaigns to help support and encourage higher education through the National College Signing Day campaign on April 26.
Reach Higher was created by first lady Michelle Obama and the White House to encourage young people to seek higher education.
News4Jax spoke with Lee High School Principal Scott Schneider, who said he can relate to many of the students when it comes to college.
"I'm a first-generation college attendee,” Schneider said.
Schneider said the road to becoming Lee High School's principal was not an easy one.
"After I graduated high school, I remember a friend asking me, ‘Where are you going to go to school?’ and I didn't know at the time,” Schneider said.
He took a non-traditional route, attending what’s now known as Florida State College of Jacksonville and then transferring to University of North Florida, where he graduated with his bachelor's degree.
"I had to retake some classes a couple times to be successful, but I learned some valuable lessons during those times,” Schneider said.
Schneider admitted he didn't have much help when it came to financial aid and college planning, but he doesn't want his students to feel alone.
"If there's any obstacles, I want to help them. I want to work through them. There's so many great people at this school that want to invest in the kids,” Schneider said.
Teachers and staff members are celebrating more than $2 million in scholarships and more than 250 college acceptance letters for the Class of 2016. They even posted the accomplishments and scholarship letters on the walls of the hallway.
Schneider said Lee High School offers graduation coaches and a school counseling team to help with advice and resources to get students to the next level.
“Our end-all be-all is for not just the students to walk across the stage and receive a diploma, but for them to actually put it to use and to go to a school or trade school so they can continue their learning,” Schneider said.
Schneider said he hopes that keeping the Reach Higher campaign going and celebrating National College Signing Day will inspire more students to continue their education.
"Through all the stress, the headaches, the loans, it's all been worth it to be where I am today,” Schneider said. "I tell my students all the time, if I do my job well, then one of them will be my boss in the future.”
Lee High School will be having a College Signing Day pep rally Tuesday for its students.
But other students can get involved too. On April 26, any student who has already applied and has been accepted to college can post a picture with an acceptance letter on social media using the hashtag #CollegeSigningDay and tagging @WJX4.