US Secretary of Education visits Memphis to encourage students

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The United States Secretary of Education paid a visit to Memphis on Wednesday to speak with students from across Shelby County.

Secretary John King Junior spoke at Craigmont High School where college recruiters and potential employers were there as well.

He made it very clear he wants all students to feel encouraged to go to college and further their careers.

He used his own story of growing up in hard circumstances as an example of how anything’s possible.

"We need young people to have faith in what’s possible for them," said Secretary King.

He noted affluent students are about six times more likely to earn a college degree than low-income students.

"It's important for students to know, those kind of challenges, whether it’s economical challenges or difficult home situations, can be overcome and can be successful," he said.

He introduced a new federal website called “the College Scorecard” where students can get more information about where they might want to go for their education after high school.

He also said the financial aid application process should be easier starting this year because students can apply three months earlier, and it will take less time.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Shelby County has an 88 percent completion rate for applying for financial aid.

"We want 100 percent of our graduates to be college and career ready," said Superintendent Hopson.

School leaders said it’s also important to focus on younger students because more than one out of three third graders in Shelby County aren’t at the reading rate they should be.

Secretary King said that’s why they’re working to start the conversation about college earlier and are focusing on professional development for teachers.

"I thought it was magnificent because a lot of the things we’ve been trying to get over to the children, actually with him coming from D.C., that just reinforced that," said Johnnie Griffith, director of West Tennessee support at Tennessee State University.

The Secretary of Education also recognized music teachers while he was here.

He'll now visit Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana to speak with more students.