Maybe Joe Biden is available...?

Maybe Joe Biden is available...?

There won't be any Secret Service agents lurking at University High School's graduation next month. No presidential motorcades or hordes of photographers (aside from proud parents).

The school was not among the six finalists announced this week in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, sponsored by the White House and U.S. Department of Education. One of the six schools will host a commencement speech by President Barack Obama this spring.

"We're disappointed, but we all put in a lot of good work, and it was fun," said junior Will Fernandez, who led Uni's effort. "It's a huge competition. We tried our best, and kudos to the teams that did get in."

More than 1,000 schools entered the contest. The six finalists are featured on the White House website, and the public will vote for the three schools they think best meet the president’s goal of showcasing "the best our education system has to offer." Obama will then choose the winner.

Uni's director, Jeff Walkington, said his students did "a wonderful job" on their application.

"I was impressed with how they pulled together to complete the essays, how they listened to each other and worked collaboratively. They represented our school well."

The finalists hail from all parts of the country -- except, curiously, the Northeast: Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, Kalamazoo, Mich., Overland Park, Kan., and Lawndale, Calif.

Fernandez is already looking ahead.  "We'll see if we have any better luck next year," he said.

Meanwhile, seniors Arnav Pamidighantam and Rachel Harmon have some pretty big Obama shoes to fill at Uni's commencement. They're scheduled to give the welcome and farewell speeches, and English teachers Elizabeth Majerus and her husband, Matthew Mitchell, will also speak.

Assistant Principal Sue Kovacs is looking forward to Uni's traditional ceremony, even without the president.

"Obama would have been tremendous, but do you know what the security would have been like?" Kovacs said.

For more about the finalists, here's the White House press release.

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