The First in Their Families, College Bound

It was a frigid morning, but throngs of well-wishers lined the sidewalks of Audubon Avenue on the northern tip of Manhattan in early December anyway, cheering for seniors from Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS). Waving to their supporters, the high school students proudly marched—some danced—past Amore’s Beauty Salon and the Esmeraldo Bakery on their way to the post office on 180th Street.

They were going to do something that many of their parents never got the chance to do: mail out their first college applications.

Known as the College March, this education celebration began in 2011 at WHEELS, a pre-K to 12 public school in New York City that serves 100 percent low-income students, 90 percent of whom will be the first in their families to go to college. Since then, the march has been replicated by thousands of seniors around the country.

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