Round Lake High School is elevating a celebration for seniors who will continue their education in college or in the armed forces.
Rodrigo Lopez, a first-year college adviser at Round Lake High, said what's called Decision Day is particularly meaningful at a school where students don't always have higher education as a goal. He wants to create excitement about Round Lake High pupils furthering their educations.
"In the past, Round Lake High School was struggling," Lopez said. "The numbers show it."
Last year, Round Lake High had a 6.5 percent dropout rate and a graduation rate of 81 percent, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. That compares to a 2010 state average dropout rate of 4 percent and an 88 percent graduation rate.
An estimated 250 to 300 Round Lake High seniors with education plans involving college or the armed forces are expected to participate in the school's second Decision Day starting at 8 a.m. Friday. The seniors are being rewarded for their dedication and hard work.
This year's Decision Day will be significantly bolstered from last year's bare-bones event. After a talk about college and career readiness by College of Lake County's David Martinez, the students will be bused to RinkSide Sports and Family Entertainment Center in Gurnee Mills.
At no cost to the students, they'll get to enjoy ice skating, arcade games, pizza and refreshments at RinkSide to celebrate their futures. Lopez said he plans to bring 30 juniors to the festivities so they can have a goal of participating next year.
"Our purpose is to get as many students into college as possible," said Lopez, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at University of Illinois-Chicago.
Lopez said many students in Friday's Decision Day will be the first generation in their families to attend college. Eduardo Sanchez, who is headed to Loyola University in Chicago, is among those first-generation pupils.
Sanchez hopes he and others can start a snowball effect that'll lead more Round Lake High students to further their educations. He said the high school students following him should know college can enhance their opportunities.
"It's good to set the bar high, so Round Lake kids know they can go to college," Sanchez said.
Lopez was assigned to Round Lake High through the Illinois College Advising Corps. An offshoot of a national organization, the state program's goal is to increase college attendance and completion by Illinois students, especially those who are underserved, low income and first generation.
Round Lake High's low-income student population was listed at 60 percent in 2010 on the most recent state report card. The school's enrollment is about 63 percent Hispanic.