Vote for Bridgeport High School in President Obama's Commencement Challenge. The rural Douglas County school is among six finalists to have the president deliver the address at the graduation ceremony.

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THIS year’s graduating class at tiny Bridgeport High School in north central Washington has a chance to be sent off into the big, wide world by none other than President Obama.

But Bridgeport, one of six finalists nationwide for the honor, needs your vote to get into the final three — a challenge since the rural Douglas County school is up against schools from much larger cities, such as San Diego, Newark and Pittsburgh.

Bridgeport High School, about 200 students strong, clearly is already “winning the future,” one of the president’s themes, and could not be more deserving. About 90 percent of its students are Hispanic — for many, their first language is Spanish — and 100 percent are on the free and reduced lunch program.

Yet the district is overcoming those challenges in impressive ways. For the second year, the district will win the Washington Achievement Award for its on-time graduation (94 percent). The dropout rate is only about 4 percent, said Superintendent Scott Sattler.

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In 2009, Bridgeport received the grand prize for smaller districts in the American School Board Journal’s Magna Awards program. It was recognized for its “College in the High School.”

The district has partnered with Wenatchee Valley College, about two hours south on Highway 17, to offer college-credit classes. Teachers have been encouraged to earn master’s degrees in fields of study, such as English, history, Spanish, language arts and soon biology and math, so the high school can offer college courses on campus. That is important because the nearest college campus is 35 miles away in Omak, making Running Start programs inconvenient.

This year, Bridgeport High School is offering 16 college-credit classes; next year, 20 are planned.

“And they are all full,” said Dan Newell, Washington state’s assistant superintendent of secondary education. “That’s unheard of at a small school of 200. In fact, its almost unheard of at larger schools.”

Of the school’s 200 students, 109 are taking at least one advanced-placement or college-level course, Sattler said. One graduate will have 60 college credits.

“We were super aggressive in introducing AP and college classes because we wanted to increase the rigor for our kids,” said Sattler. “… when they graduate, they have the confidence to step onto any campus and know they can do well.”

The Bridgeport community — from the School Board to the students to their parents — clearly are showing that daunting obstacles can be overcome. President Obama ought to come see for himself.

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