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June 7, 2012

Graduates include first students in the US to attend schools within one charter organization from kindergarten to high school graduation

Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy (Ben Holt) held a commencement ceremony for its 47 graduates on Friday, June 8, all of whom were accepted to four-year colleges or universities. This graduation is one of five for Aspire Public Schools, California's highest-performing large public school system serving predominantly low-income students. For the third consecutive year, 100 percent of graduating seniors from Aspire high schools have been accepted to four year colleges or universities.

In what is believed to be the first time in the country for any charter management organization, Aspire Ben Holt will graduate eight students who have attended Aspire schools for the entirety of their K-12 education. These eight students enrolled in Aspire's first school, Aspire University Public School (now Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy), located in Stockton, CA, as Kindergartners in 1998, and will graduate from Aspire Ben Holt on June 8, 2012. Each of these graduates will be attending college in the fall.

"Ben Holt's graduates prove what is possible when students, families and school communities come together to make 'College for Certain' a reality," said James Willcox, CEO of Aspire Public Schools. "Our students have worked incredibly hard to get to this point, with a focus on attending college and earning their college degree. I congratulate all of our graduates, and look forward to seeing all that they will accomplish in communities across California."

Aspire Ben Holt graduates have been accepted to some of the country's best colleges and universities, including American University, Brigham Young University, California Polytechnic State University, University of California - Berkeley and University of California - Los Angeles. Graduating seniors at the school, which serves a significant percentage of low-income and minority students, have been awarded more than $170,000 in college scholarships.

Class secretary Erika Cuevas, one of the eight students attending an Aspire school since kindergarten, will attend Kenyon University in Ohio this fall. As the oldest of three with her two younger siblings enrolled in Aspire schools, Cuevas plans on being the first member of her family to graduate from college.

"At Aspire, college always seemed attainable," said Cuevas. "From kindergarten, we were surrounded by the idea of college, from classroom names to tee-shirt days to chants. Aspire convinced us that no matter where me or my classmates came from, we would and could go to college."

This year, 168 students will receive high school diplomas from Aspire schools, the largest graduating class in Aspire's history. All of these graduates have been accepted to college, including prestigious schools such as Boston College, Howard University, Middlebury College, and University of California - Berkeley.

Aspire attributes its success in sending California's low-income population to college in part to its culture of 'College for Certain.' All Aspire classrooms are named after their teacher's college or university and students participate in weekly college pep rallies. Aspire offers students the opportunity to earn college credits throughout high school, and supports juniors and seniors throughout the college application process with weekly workshops.

About Aspire Public Schools

Aspire Public Schools is a nonprofit organization that currently operates 34 high-performing, open-enrollment public charter schools serving 12,000 students in underserved communities across California and will open schools in Memphis, TN in fall, 2013. Aspire is one of the highest-performing public school systems in California, delivering a rigorous 'College for Certain' education to students in grades K-12. An unrelenting focus on college preparedness led to 100 percent of graduating Aspire seniors being accepted to four year colleges or universities in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Aspire offers a high-quality education in six cities throughout California: Los Angeles, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, Modesto and East Palo Alto. Visit Aspire Public Schools at www.aspirepublicschools.org.

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