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Labor secretary to speak at Bridgeport commencement

BRIDGEPORT, Wash. — Bridgeport High School’s commencement speaker, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, is a good match for the students.

Solis is the daughter of Hispanic immigrants and was the first in her family to go to college, said Principal Tamra Jackson, who learned this morning of the speaker from the White House.

“At first, I didn’t know what to think because I didn’t know who she was, but after I read her bio I got really excited,” Jackson said. “It’s a good fit for our students and our community.”

Commencement will be June 1. Governor Christine Gregoire also will speak.

“Congressman Jay Inslee is making every effort to be here as well,” Jackson said.

Bridgeport was one of three finalists in the Race to the Top commencement challenge to have President Barack Obama as the speaker. He chose Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn.

Bridgeport High School, with 150 students, is 90 percent Hispanic with 100 percent qualified for free and reduced lunch. Many of the students are first generation high school students, yet 82 percent are college-bound at graduation.

Bridgeport has a population of about 2,400 and is 125 miles west of Spokane.

Jackson said some students, though proud, are upset at what they’ve read about “the politics,” such as the school not being chosen because Washington state would likely favor Obama in the 2012 election, and Tennessee is a state considered in play.

But students are still excited that their school has been nationally recognized and a member of the Cabinet is coming to speak to them, Jackson said.

According to Solis’ biography on the White House website, she “was first elected to public office in 1985 as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees. She served in the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1994, and in 1994 made history by becoming the first Latina elected to the California Senate.

Obama nominated her to serve as secretary of labor in 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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