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Lawndale charter school doesn’t make top three in Obama's commencement speech challenge

April 30, 2010 | 11:38 am

The dream of President Obama speaking at its commencement ended for a Lawndale school Friday when the White House announced that Environmental Charter High was not among the three finalists being considered for the honor.

The 8 1/2-year-old school was one of six that made the first cut in the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. More than 1,000 schools sent in entries, which included a videos and an essay produced by students. Having made the semifinals, the Lawndale students submitted another video, this one three minutes long.

Finalists were chosen based on the ratings given to the schools' essays and videos from those voting on the White House website. The president will choose the winner May 4.

"While we're all sorry we didn't make the top three, seeing the entire country rally around education and seeing the great work all six schools are doing is an important reminder of what we do here every day," said Alison Suffet-Diaz, the school's founder and executive director.

Supporters of Environmental Charter High's bid included businessman Sir Richard Branson, who appeared in a video for the school, NBA player Shaquille O'Neal and "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, who tweeted their support.

A prominent speaker could still make it to the school's commencement. An e-mail from the White House said the administration would try to arrange for a Cabinet secretary or a senior-level official to speak at the commencements of the runner-up schools.

-- Jeff Gottlieb