June 16, 2021

Purdue Polytechnic High School celebrates first graduating class

President Daniels encourages students as they continue their schooling and launch careers

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday (June 11) was a day more than four years in the making, a day of celebration for 110 members of the very first graduating class of the Purdue Polytechnic High School Schweitzer Center at Englewood.

Watch Building a Pipeline: PPHS Origins Story to learn how and why Purdue Polytechnic High School is revolutionizing education and changing students’ lives.

The “Techies,” as they call themselves, are students who accepted the challenge of going to a new school that promised different classroom learning styles than the traditional lecture, a school that would prepare them for the rigors that would await them at Purdue University. A photo gallery of the school’s graduation is available online.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels lauded the students and parents for their work and commitment in taking a chance on a new school and new way of learning. Invoking Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong and how he turned his small steps into a giant leap by becoming the first human to leave footprints on the moon, Daniels encouraged the students to take their next giant leap in higher education, apprenticeship or job.

“For six years now, I’ve been giving speeches where at some point or another I’ve said something about this project. I can’t wait for the day when - if somehow this works - 100 or more beautiful young people will walk across the stage and graduate from high school and have a better chance in life than they would have had, and many of them will come to Purdue University who would have never gotten there otherwise,” Daniels said. “That day is here.”

Purdue established the Purdue Polytechnic High Schools as a way to increase access to higher education and open doors to opportunity for many. Forty members of the PPHS graduating class have been admitted to Purdue for fall 2021 —more than double the average of 15 who attended Purdue from Indianapolis Public Schools over the past six years (video of the journey to commencement).

“It turns out there’s a reason a very few people have attempted to reinvent the high school experience because it’s really, really hard,” said Scott Bess, head of school. “What we’ve been able to accomplish, however, is an experience for our students that goes beyond checking some academic boxes but extends to mastering the skills that will make a difference in whatever they choose to do next. You, the students, gave us grace as we failed forward. We appreciate that more than words can express.”

The growing, multischool PPHS system immerses students and their families in an innovative learning community. PPHS offers free tuition and authentic, STEM-focused experiences that prepare high school students for a successful future. These experiences include internships, industry projects, dual-credit courses and technical certifications. PPHS also offers its students a unique path to college; graduates who achieve Purdue’s admission requirements are assured admission to many programs at Purdue.

The school is already having an immediate impact on underrepresented minority student enrollment at Purdue and other higher education institutions. Many of the 40 PPHS students will arrive on campus by July 9 to participate in Summer Start and Early Start programs. Those programs are designed to help acclimate incoming students to the campus environment, including attending classes and obtaining credits before the fall semester. Twenty-nine students will attend other four-year schools.

pphs-graduation-gallery A photo gallery with images taken throughout the ceremony is available. (Purdue University photos/ Rebecca McElhoe and John Underwood) Download image


Of the 110 graduates, 88 had completed senior surveys detailing their plans:

* 34.1% will attend Purdue.

* 33% will attend another four-year institution.

* 12.5% will attend community college.

* 15.9% will do career training.

* 1.1% will go directly into a skilled trade.  

Bess thanked the students and parents for taking a chance on the school, while Shatoya Ward, founding principal of PPHS Schweitzer Center at Englewood, reflected on the journey made by students who charted a bold path for many more to come.

“Of the students sitting before me, I cannot believe it was four years ago that you all walked through the doors as Techies for the first time,” Ward said. “And now you’re getting ready to take the next steps in what I know will be an exciting and fulfilling and rewarding life.”

The ceremony, conducted on the lawn area outside the P.R. Mallory building,  included many student-inspired aspects, ranging from a class poem written by graduate Kaitlyn Atkinson to student responses from Joshua MacKinnon from the North campus, and Kayla Owens, DeAnthony Carter, Chi-Yang Cao, Jacy Thomas, Audrey Williamson and Sarah Winters from PPHS Schweitzer Center at Englewood. The students reflected on their time at the school, including being the first students at the school and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/. 

Writer, Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Scott Bess, sbess@pphs.purdue.edu

Journalists visiting campus: Journalists should follow Protect Purdue protocols and the following guidelines:

  • Campus is open, but the number of people in spaces may be limited. We will be as accommodating as possible, but you may be asked to step out or report from another location.
  • To enable access, particularly to campus buildings, we recommend you contact the Purdue News Service media contact listed on the release to let them know the nature of the visit and where you will be visiting. A News Service representative can facilitate safe access and may escort you on campus.
  • Correctly wear face masks inside any campus building, and correctly wear face masks outdoors when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible.

Note to journalists: An image, b-roll and drone video clips of the graduation ceremony are available via Google Drive. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines.

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