Michigan high school wins Race to the Top contest; Obama will speak at graduation

President Barack Obama will address the graduating class of Kalamazoo Central High School (KCHS), the winner of the first-ever Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

Located in Kalamazoo, Mich., the school beat out more than 1,000 other entries in a contest to win the privilege of a presidential commencement address on June 10. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the winner on Tuesday, and his remarks were posted on the White House blog.

KCHS is best known as the home of the Kalamazoo Promise, an anonymously funded scholarship endowment that ensures every graduate of the city's public high schools receives a full scholarship to college. The program is unique in the United States.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
, who represents Kalamazoo, congratulated the school in a statement Tuesday, saying, “Having visited K-Central again just last month, I continue to be impressed with the students’ passion to learn ... this is a great achievement for the students, parents and faculty."

The contest was held online between April 26 and April 29, and Duncan said that over 170,000 people voted on short videos by the six finalists. Of those six, the top three were presented to the president, who made the final selection.  

In recognition of their achievements, Duncan announced that the other five finalists will also receive a special graduation speaker: A member of Obama's Cabinet, or a senior official in the administration.

The runners up in the contest were Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kan., Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, Colo., Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Calif., and MAST Academy in Miami, Fla.