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INDIANAPOLIS – Purdue Polytechnic High School graduated its first class Friday. It was a moment they’ve been anticipating since launching the school four years ago.

For these 100 students, this moment marks the start of a new chapter. 

The students, like Kayla Owens, couldn’t be prouder. She was the first student to take a chance on this school.

“Seeing everyone graduate and make it to the finish line, I’m very proud of myself and my classmates,” said Owens.

And now she’s headed to Purdue University. So is Katie Johnson, who graduated high school in three years.

“Here, everyone is different, and everyone has a very unique way of looking at it and when you’re constantly working on projects,” she said.

Purdue Polytechnic was established in 2017 as a tuition-free, STEM-focused school. Along with typical classes, students work on projects throughout the year, such as addressing food deserts in Indianapolis and designing business plans.

“I’m really excited for their future. This is a class of bright students and we feel like we’ve set them up for success,” said Principal Shatoya Ward.

It’s the diversity in this school that has inspired Ward. Purdue created the Purdue Polytechnic High Schools to give underserved and underrepresented students a chance.

“That is my life mission,” explained Ward. “My life mission is about providing access and opportunities for those who may have not had it. What I love about our graduates, I was on the stage for rehearsal and I looked out on the graduating class and I was like, when you say you have a diverse school you see it in the population of our students. I looked out and all I could see was the diversity of our students that were sitting there and ready and to go out into the world. It made my heart feel so warm.”

Purdue President Mitch Daniels calls these students pioneers.  He hopes this is just the beginning for their futures – and for this school.

“It’s a Boilermaker thing to do to try and do something new and try to innovate and these folks have done that. We also believe you have to prove yourself,” said Daniels. “The achievement of these young people in this first class does that.

“First of what will be many, many other commencements where young people who may not have had a chance to come to our university have now proven that they are ready.”

Forty of the students graduating Friday will head to Purdue University in the Fall. Purdue is expecting its largest incoming freshman class ever with more than 10,000 students.

To learn more about Purdue Polytechnic High School, click here.