GUNNISON - Former Mountaineer men’s basketball player Von Washington ’90, who introduced President Barack Obama for the commencement address at Kalamazoo Central High School last June, will deliver the commencement address at his alma mater when Western State College confers graduates May 7 in Mountaineer Bowl.
Washington is wrapping up his fourth year at principal at Kalamazoo Central. He was principal when the school won the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge last year, which featured President Obama delivering the address for the winning school. Kalamazoo Central was chosen from more than 1,000 schools that entered the competition.
Kalamazoo Central won based on a video that featured slam poetry. The White House Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Education narrowed the video entries to six schools, and more than 170,000 people voted for the top three. President Obama selected the winner from the three finalists. It was one of four commencement addresses that he delivered in the spring of 2010.
Washington has overseen an increase in graduation rates by 30 percent from his second to third year, helped in part by the “Kalamazoo Promise”. The program is funded by a group of private donors that provides scholarship funds, up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for graduates who meet small stipulations, to any public college or university in Michigan. Since the introduction of the program in 2005, before Washington became principal, 91 percent of graduating seniors have gone to college.
Washington played in 38 career games for the Mountaineers under Head Coach Dr. Jay Helman and shot 43.9 percent from the three-point line in his two seasons on the court. At the time his career ended, Washington was third in program records for three-pointers made in a season (58) and three-point percentage in a season (43.6). He averaged 13.1 points and was among the RMAC leaders in three-point percentage in his senior season. Washington was also active in the communications department with the radio station and by playing the leads in several stage productions.
Commencement exercises begin next Saturday at 10 a.m. in Mountaineer Bowl. In case of inclement weather, the exercises will move to Paul Wright Gym.