PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Students in Philadelphia often face an uphill climb on the road to graduation. That’s why those who have made it to the finish line were celebrated Wednesday on College Signing Day.

College Signing Day is an event hosted every year by former First Lady Michelle Obama via her Reach Higher initiative. This year, there were several special guests on hand in Philadelphia to inspire hundreds of students to dream big.

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The energy inside the Liacouras Center at Temple University was electric.

“Study hard when you get there,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “Enjoy your experience and continue with a great life.”

The music, the performances, the messages all were meant to inspire a crowd of hundreds of high school seniors, most sporting their brand new college paraphernalia, as they’re about to head off to four-year universities and trade schools to start their future.

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“I’m a proud public school graduate of Simon Gratz High School,” Temple basketball head coach Aaron McKie said. “And I’m also a graduate of Temple University.”

The former Sixers star, now Owls head coach, used his own success story to hype up the crowd.

McKie recounted his North Philadelphia roots, his road to the NBA and now his new head coaching job at Temple.

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“You can do anything you set your mind to,” McKie said. “I’m a living example.”

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And a special message from Obama, who headlined the event in Philadelphia last year, sent the students into a frenzy.

“With that one decision, you have the chance to transform your entire life,” Obama said.

North Philadelphia’s own Dawn Staley brought home the final inspiring message of the day.

The University of South Carolina women’s basketball head coach is a testament to hard work and success. She told students they can be too.

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“I wanna give you all a shout-out for the hard work that you put in all high school-year-long,” Staley said, “and I also want you to look beside you or when you go home, look at your parents and tell them thank you for supporting you.”

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There were also several scholarship presentations at Wednesday’s event and several laptops were given away to some very lucky students.