School spirit was never lacking inside Dickies Arena on Monday, May 22.

Mascots danced in the middle of the arena, as the crowd rapped along to popular hip-hop songs, cheerleaders led sections full of cheering students who couldn’t stay seated and homemade posters and signs bearing university names scattered throughout the crowd.

This wasn’t for any college sporting event. 

North Texas’ largest public charter school network, Uplift Education, held its 13th annual Senior Decision Day earlier this week. Graduates, parents and fellow Uplift students of 11 different schools joined to celebrate the class of 2023, where graduating seniors loudly announced their future plans over arena speakers. 

The ceremony, kickstarted by a mascot dance-off won by Uplift Luna Preparatory’s owl, was underway once Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia got the crowd of about 2,000 family members and friends ready to applaud this year’s class of 950 graduates.

“Today is your day!” Bhatia said in her welcome speech, erupting a raucous cheer from the crowd. “We’re cheering for you along the way!” 

Her words were both for the ceremony and the students’ future careers.

Uplift parents, like Jessica Salas, said this exact support that Uplift has given her family over the years is a big reason why her son, Alejandro Salas, announced he will be at Texas Tech next fall studying kinesiology. And, why she continues to enroll her younger children in the same system at Uplift North Hills Preparatory

Besides Alejandro, Salas has a rising 11th grader, fourth grader and kindergartener at North Hills. 

“Uplift has given him so many opportunities to just go out and see other colleges, see what’s out there, more than we could ever give him,” Salas said. She, nor her husband, graduated from college. Alejandro aims to become a first-generation college graduate.

The Uplift graduate also said he wants to graduate Texas Tech with a physical therapy license, and hopes to work for professional sports teams in his future.

“Hard work pays off,” Alejandro said, “and you can tell there’s people here who care about you, who can guide you through the college steps.”

Bhatia said 100% of this year’s class was accepted into college, though not all may decide to attend. Some students enter the workforce, or continue their education at a trade school like the Universal Technical Institute in Irving. 

For those who do go to college, Texas Tech was commonly announced over loudspeaker with a corresponding, “Wreck ‘em!” But Dallas College, UT-Arlington and the University of North Texas were among more popular choices. So were schools like Texas Woman’s University and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, where Uplift Mighty Preparatory’s Ariyah Clark will be studying. 

When COVID-19 hit, Clark was close to giving up on her future in education, she said. 

“I’ve worked my hardest I really have… there was a time where I actually gave up and I picked myself back up… so this feels great,” Clark said.

Without Uplift’s support, there’s no way she would’ve kept going. She shouted out Uplift Mighty’s Road to College & Career office, and her counselor Yessenia Hackett-Evans.

“She’s really helped me and pushed me not just academically, but as a person,” Clark said. “Without them [RTCC office], I don’t know where I’d be.” 

Before taking some time to herself, Clark will study psychology, and business, at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. She hopes to start her own counseling center down the line.

After leaving Dickies Arena, some may never see their Uplift classmates again – but walking out with a diploma, and banners and pennants bearing the names of universities across the country – Uplift’s class of 2023 says they feel ready to take on their careers.

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email

Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...