Education | Oregon

Washington School Hoping For Presidential Commencement Address

OPB | April 28, 2011 7:28 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:05 a.m. | Bridgeport, WA

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One of six finalists in the competition to win a commencement address from President Obama is the high school in the tiny north-central Washington town of Bridgeport.

Voting in the national contest ends Friday. Jessica Robinson reports nearly all the students in Bridgeport are first-generation Americans.


Between classes, the halls at Bridgeport High are filled with English and Spanish – often mixed together.

Latino immigrants started moving here about 20 years ago to take jobs in the nearby cherry and apple orchards.

District superintendent Scott Sattler says at first, it was a challenge for the schools.

Scott Sattler: “You know, we’d invite parents to come to the school, but school can be intimidating. We actually physically went to the packing sheds out in the orchards and talked to the workers.”

The student body at Bridgeport High School is now 90 percent Hispanic. Despite a national achievement gap among ethnic groups, many here are enrolled in AP and college credit courses. Of this year’s graduating class, 82 percent have been accepted to college.

Senior Carina Ochoa says her family is glad she’s had these opportunities.

Carina Ochoa: “They just don’t want us to go work in packing sheds for 10 to 12 hours. Like, those are back breaking hours, and like in the summer we all go work at the warehouse, we wanna … we’re looking further in life.”

Bridgeport is competing with schools in big cities like Newark, Pittsburgh, and San Diego for the grand prize — President Obama as commencement speaker. Friday is the last day for the public to vote in the competition.

You can look at the six finalists and vote at WhiteHouse.gov/commencement.

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