Posted by Mary Cullinane
Director of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, Microsoft Worldwide Education

With great fanfare four years ago, teenagers began their high school careers at a new school called The School of the Future. A partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft, the school was built to help lead the way toward establishing a new norm in urban education: one where mediocrity is no longer acceptable, every child can be successful and opportunity is provided to all, not just those lucky enough to be chosen.

I’ll never forget that day and seeing the hope in students’ eyes. You could sense their apprehension, but also their intense desire to embark on the journey.

This week again I will witness the power of hope and inspiration as 117 School of the Future students walk across the stage and become what more than 35 percent of high school freshmen in this country do not: graduates. They have surpassed their own expectations, and it wasn’t easy. While more than 3,000 inquisitive visitors from 50 countries walked the hallways to observe the school first hand, students overcame many challenges: Leadership changes, social and economic pressures, and simply the challenge of being teenagers. Now they are graduating, and – pay close attention here – every graduate has been accepted into a technical school, community college or university.

We’ve done a lot at the school, including implementing the 6i Process and the Education Competency Wheel, which will have lasting impacts. I’ve been lucky to have a chance to work with the school and to gain from it a better understanding of what it means to educate our youth in urban America. I’m lucky I got to meet an amazing group of educators who, every day, put the needs of their students first and foremost. I’m lucky I had the opportunity to see the school inspire in Microsoft employees a renewed passion for figuring out how we can better support schools around the world. Most important, I’m lucky to have met these kids, whom I will never forget, who taught me once again to never lose faith in the potential of children.