There's a big pot of money out there, said Assistant Principal Mark Bailey, and he already is figuring out ways to access more sources and obtain an even higher dollar amount for the class of 2012.
Last year, he
said, the students received almost $5 million in scholarships, still an impressive number, and the totals don't include financial aid.
"We want to make sure students are doing what they need to do to get paid to go to school as opposed to paying to go to school," Bailey
acknowledged the current fiscal reality, citing the near doubling of tuition at his
alma mater, Tulane, over the decade since his
graduation in 2000.
Many students tend to narrow in on a school because they like the sound of it, he
Instead, the staff at Walker is working to ensure that students are comprehensively prepared for the financial situation that comes with the various educational institutions, which ideally means avoiding a lifetime of debt and loan payments.
Along with Bailey
, a team of counselors and a graduation coach help students to pragmatically find the best fit.
credits the continuing increase in scholarship dollars largely to the school's staff becoming better skilled at tracking data.
Crucial components, such as ACT scores and meeting the requirements to qualify for TOPS, or Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, money, can be tracked early, and the staff, said Bailey
, can identify and inform precisely which students qualify for which scholarships, and what others need to do to be eligible.
Of the 232 students in the senior class, Bailey
said, 217 took the ACT.
And, in a rare trend, the school's ACT scores are increasing along with the increase in the number of students taking the test.
Of the 232 students, 179 are college-bound, Bailey
said, and the number steadily increases each year.
"We're focusing our efforts," Bailey
said, "and getting more strategic about our efforts.
We're working smart - not just hard."
Walker Valedictorian Antoine Brown, the 17-year-old headed to Morehouse College
on a full-ride scholarship, knows that academic dedication has to begin freshman year.
"If you work hard your freshman year and get through it, everything else is a breeze," he
Doing well early on, Brown said, will "continue to give you confidence and motivation" that will carry you to graduation.
agreed, urging his
students not to dig themselves in an irreversible GPA "hole," and cited a student who did very well aside from a number of D's her
freshmen year - significantly decreasing her
These numbers, Bailey
said, will allow the staff to get a "more comprehensive idea of how successful they are, and will tell us where the gaps are in what we are doing.
The commitment to students at Walker extends far beyond high school graduation, Bailey
detailed, as they want to see long-term results of success.
A significant chunk of this year's bounty, Bailey
said, about $2 million, came from scholarships received by members of Walker's esteemed band.
Another good-sized chunk, $1.3 million, Bailey
said, went to football star Anthony Johnson.
pointed out that the impressively mature, articulate 18-year-old also could have gotten academic scholarships.
wants to maximize scholarship money for talents beyond band and sports.
They've got those two pieces figured out, he
said, but are working to find more opportunities for dancers and vocalists and other skilled students.