For the first time in more than a decade, the St. Louis public school district is celebrating the first graduating class of a new high school.
The Collegiate School of Medicine & Bioscience gave diplomas to 44 seniors Sunday.
While still too new to have much of a track record, Collegiate’s high standardized test scores help the highly selective magnet school stand out from a crowded field of science-themed schools in the city.
In 2015 and 2016 Collegiate had some of the highest English and Math scores in the region, on par with Metro High School, which is often ranked as one of the best schools in the country.
Principal Frederick Steele said this year’s graduates took a risk in choosing Collegiate when it was a brand new school.
“They are true ground-breakers and trailblazers,” said Steele. “My predecessor, the previous principal, was very good at recruiting students and convincing them that they were making the right decision. He did his job very, very well.”
According to Steele, Collegiate’s 44 seniors will all be going to college in the fall, about half with plans to pursue medicine. He's trying to increase enrollment at the school and sees private schools and other college prep magnet schools as his main competitors.
Collegiate has similar entrance requirements to Metro. The district’s older science-focused magnet school, Gateway STEM High School, is less stringent.
Charter schools with a science, math and technology focus, like Gateway Science Academy and Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, can only legally give selection preference based on geography.
Gateway Science Academy held its first high school graduation last year, boasting a hundred percent college acceptance rate like Collegiate.
Collegiate’s partnership with some of the region’s major science and technology institutions also makes it unique, as does its narrow focus on life science.
An advisory panel that includes the Cortex Innovation Community, the Washington University School of Medicine and the Saint Louis University School of Medicine helped found the high school. The panel also helps shape curriculum, connects students to internships and provides financial support.
Cortex CEO Dennis Lower said the innovation district helped found Collegiate because a good educational foundation lays the groundwork for research.
“Our raw materials really are smart people,” said Lower. “It’s only natural that Cortex would be affiliated obviously and sponsored by multiple universities here in St. Louis, but also that we try to look to the future to the pipeline of talent.”
Lower hopes the public magnet school will also help diversify the fields of science and medicine in St. Louis. The Collegiate student body is about 54 percent black, 28 percent white and 14 percent Asian. About 20 percent live in St. Louis County and enroll as part of the voluntary desegregation program.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.