WSC Alum Von Washington Introduces President Obama at HS Graduation
June 8, 2010 -- Von Washington, principal at Kalamazoo Central High School and a 1990 Western State College of Colorado (WSC) graduate who played on the men’s basketball team, introduced President Barack Obama during the president’s commencement address last night. The school was chosen as the winner from more than 1,000 schools of the 2010 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.
Obama praised Washington for “not just his warm introduction, but for his enthusiasm and his energy and his leadership and his nice singing voice.” Obama spoke at Kalamazoo Central after the school was selected to highlight schools that promote academic excellence, personal responsibility and that best prepare students for college and careers.
Kalamazoo Central won based on a video submitted for the commencement challenge that featured slam poetry. The White House Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Education narrowed the video entries to six schools, and between April 26 and April 29, more than 170,000 people voted for the top three. President Obama selected the winner from the three finalists. It was one of four commencement addresses that he delivered this spring.
Washington just completed his third year as principal at Kalamazoo Central and has overseen an increase in the graduation rate by 30 percent from his second to third year, helped in part by the “Kalamazoo Promise”. The program is funded by a group of private donors that provides scholarship funds, up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for graduates who meet small stipulations, to any public college or university in Michigan. Since the introduction of the program in 2005, before Washington became principal, 91 percent of graduating seniors have gone to college.
Washington played in 38 career games for the Mountaineers under Head Coach Jay Helman (now WSC president) and shot 43.9 percent from the three-point line in his two seasons on the court. At the time his career ended, Washington was third in program records for three-pointers made in a season (58) and three-point percentage in a season (43.6). He averaged 13.1 points and was among the RMAC leaders in three-point percentage in his senior season.