• College-bound champions celebrated at a school called HOPE

    • College-bound champions celebrated at a school called HOPE
    • By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog
    • April 10, 2015

    MADISON, Wis. — As University of Wisconsin men’s basketball fans come down from a historic season that ended with a tantalizing close loss in the NCAA championship, attention turns to the program’s future.

    Can the Badgers make another run like 2015 anytime soon? Who will be the next big recruits to build on the team’s recent successes?

    In Milwaukee, Hope Christian High School, too, is looking for the next “impact players.” But at Hope, a parental choice student voucher school that is making a significant difference in the lives of students, families and their community, the stakes for these recruits are bigger than a national basketball championship.

    Photo from Youtube

    Photo from Youtube

    HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: A student at Hope Christian High School celebrates and is celebrated during the school’s Senior Signing Day.

    On May 29, the school will hold its third annual “Senior Signing Day.” The celebratory event is a lot like the college sports signing days that have become near-religious experiences for fans. But the celebration at Hope is one shining moment for seniors to announce before an adoring fan base where they will enroll in college.

    For the fourth year in a row, 100 percent of the choice school’s seniors have been admitted to college. This year, all 34 of its seniors will graduate and all have committed to go on to college. And those students outpaced their local, state and national peers on the ACT college entrance test. They’ve earned a combined $2 million in scholarships.

    Last year, all 38 students graduated, and all but two remain in college, according to Hope Christian High School Principal Tom Schalmo.

    With more than 95 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced lunches, Hope’s success rate is tantamount to UCLA’s NCAA basketball championship runs of the 1960s and ‘70s.

    “What we do at Hope, regardless of what your situation is, your background, how much your parents make, we believe every kid should be able to go to college,” Schalmo said.

    “With athletes, the more talented ones get celebrated and the most attention is paid to where they go to college. We want our students, many of them the first generation of college attendees, we want them to make a commitment to better their lives,” the principal said. “The premise is that if you’re going to work hard for four years, put in the time and strengthen your walk with Christ, you deserve having hundreds of people applauding you.”

    And do they ever applaud.

    Students, teachers and administrators from the Hope Christian school system — elementary, middle and high schools — turn out for this life celebration. So do parents and grandparents, and guardians, and little siblings, and cousins, and community leaders. Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, two of Wisconsin’s biggest cheerleaders for the school choice movement, have attended the signing days.

    “It is really difficult to not have an appreciation for what’s happening on the north side at Hope Christian School,” said Jim Bender, president of Wisconsin School Choice, which advocates for Wisconsin’s growing parental choice program.

    “The near north side of Milwaukee has probably one of the biggest racial learning gaps of anywhere in the country. (Hope) put their school in the heart of that area to specifically address that problem,” Bender added. “And they have this unbelievable group of staff that is so committed, and that’s obvious with 100 percent of the students accepted to college four years in a row.”

    Hope has been in discussions to help turn its “signing day” into a city-wide event. It appears that won’t happen this year, but perhaps by next year, Schalmo said.

    “We would be honored to have folks see what we’ve done at Hope and emulate that, to recognize the students who attend choice and charter schools have a promising future. Talks are under way for that potential and we would be fully behind it,” the principal said.

    Life’s ultimate champions are students with hope.

    “It’s exciting for us as an entire network of schools. It’s an exciting event for kids all the way through to see what happens if they believe in the mission of what we’re doing. Our families support them to do that, and we’re going to help make sure that they are ready for college,” Schalmo said.

    College-bound champions celebrated at a school called Hope