YES Prep Public Schools
Aaron Jay Ledesma

YES Prep CEO Mark DiBella smiles with pride alongside
members of the Class of 2024 at Senior Signing Day.


On May 21, 2024, YES Prep Public Schools celebrated the best day of the year—Senior Signing Day! 

This annual tradition began in 2001, thanks to YES Prep Founder Chris Barbic and then-college counselor Donald Kamentz. In part four of our 25th Anniversary series, Barbic shared the origin story of Senior Signing Day

“In 2000, after another long day at YES, Donald and I were at one of our favorite hangouts watching SportsCenter,” said Barbic. “They were talking about collegiate signing day and making a big deal about kids going to different schools. We thought, 'Man, we should be celebrating our kids and what they've accomplished.' Most of them are the first in their family to go to college. Let's celebrate that... and we did.” 

The first Senior Signing Day was in 2001, when 17 seniors from YES Prep Southeast Secondary declared their commitments in front of 300 students, families, and staff at Talento Bilingue De Houston. 

This year, 1,631 seniors from 14 campuses took the stage to declare their post-secondary plans, cheered on by over 8,000 YES Prep students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, and donors at the University of Houston's Fertitta Center. 

“I am thrilled to be at Senior Signing Day because we get to celebrate our seniors who've worked so hard to be here,” said YES Prep CEO Mark DiBella. “It's anchored in our mission to make sure our kids are ready to go off to college and pursue lives of opportunity.” 

The Class of 2024 is impressive, earning more than 11,206 acceptances and over $2 million in scholarships and financial aid. Other class highlights include: 

  • 90% are first generation college-bound 

  • Four seniors received five acceptances to Ivy League Schools 

  • 19 students received 22 acceptances to Ivy Plus Schools 

Among our first-generation college-bound students is Tiffany Thai, West '24, a notable success of the English Language Learners program at YES Prep. Tiffany, who speaks Vietnamese at home, entered school as an emergent bilingual student in 6th grade and has since excelled in four Advanced Placement classes.

“I am excited because I've seen Senior Signing Day for the last six years and always dreamed of being on stage myself and announcing the college I am attending,” said Thai. 

From YES Prep’s founding campus, Adrian Araujo, Southeast '24, expressed how meaningful this milestone is for him and his family. As a QuestBridge Scholar, he will attend Stanford University.

“I want to thank my parents. They immigrated to the US when they were young,” said Araujo. “They built a family and persevered, and now we have this moment that is so special to them and me. I am fulfilling their dreams through my dreams.” 

This year was extra special as we welcomed the founding class of YES Prep Northline Secondary Revolutionaries to the stage for the first time. Founding Northline Principal Brittany McGruder was thrilled for her first class of seniors.

“This day is especially powerful for me. I am the founding principal of YES Prep Northline, so I'm here with our founders,” said McGruder. “This shows YES Prep's commitment. They have seen it from other YES Prep campuses for years, and now it is time to show it is possible in the Northline community as well.” 

Founding Northline Senior and Posse Scholar, Gabe Morales, Northline '24, shared his excitement for this historic moment as he announced his attendance at Colby College, a private liberal arts college in Waterville, Maine. 

“I'm really excited to be at Senior Signing Day because it's great to be the first seniors at YES Prep Northline to announce where we're going to college,” said Morales. 

By the end of the day, every member of the YES Prep community was inspired and reminded of our mission: to empower all Houston students to succeed in college and pursue lives of opportunity. 

New this year, donors and partners attended a special Scholars Lunch moderated by Donald Kamentz, the creator of the first Senior Signing Day. Three alumni panelists returned to share their college experiences 1-3 years after graduation and the impact YES Prep had on their current career paths. 

“My college counselors helped me realize that I wanted to leave Texas and see what the world has to offer. I’ve learned so much about myself while at George Washington University and look forward to moving overseas after graduation to start my career,” shared Mayli Marroquin ‘22, alumna of YES Prep Gulfton Secondary. 

The generosity of YES Prep scholarship donors and the hard work of our College Initiatives team allowed all three panelists to pursue colleges outside of Texas to expand their horizons and learn how to become next generation leaders. 

Donald Kamentz, Mayli Marroquin ’22, Beverly Flores ‘23, Rivaldo Mendez ’21, Mark DiBella


Reflecting on this incredible 23-year tradition, Founder Chris Barbic still gets emotional. 

“Having their families there to celebrate in that moment. I mean, I get choked up just talking about it,” said Barbic. “A kid going to college changes the game for not just that kid, but the entire family. When it's thousands of kids, it's just more opportunities to make Houston even better.” 

Congratulations, Class of 2024! We are incredibly proud of you and look forward to seeing all the amazing things you will achieve as you join more than 12,267 YES Prep alumni.

View and download #YESPrepSSD24 photos on YES Prep’s SmugMug.  



Sign up to receive The News Update directly in your inbox

The News Update is YES Prep Public Schools monthly e-newsletter where we share the latest news, teacher and student stories, as well as upcoming events and important dates. 

Subscribe to newsletter