Today is “College Day” for New Haven public school students.

The first event of its kind, College Day brought Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Superintendent Reggie Mayo, and president and CEO of Yale-New Haven Hospital Marna Borgstrom to the Mauro-Sheridan School auditorium today in college gear to preach the value of higher education. College Day inaugurates the city’s “Pathway to Promise,”part of a system of supports intended to help students take advantage of the New Haven Promise college scholarships funded by Yale.

Borgstrom, donning a hoodie emblazoned with the logo of her alma mater Stanford, said Yale-New Haven Hospital is proud be supporting the support system, dubbed the “Partnership,” with a $2 million grant.

“The only reason I am president of the hospital is that my parents placed a value on me going to college,” Borgstrom, said to a crowd of nearly a hundred middle schoolers.

For Mayo, college was a life-saving experience, he said. Growing up poor in a housing project in Richmond, Virginia, Mayo said he often felt as if he was in a race between finishing high school and going to prison. But because of a supportive mother and a guidance counselor adamant about the need to attend college, Mayo decided to attend Virginia Union University in Richmond.

“The Reggie Mayo you see today is the result of college,” he said. “Like a lot of you, I never dreamed I would go to college. I want you all to think every day about going to college and work hard so you can take advantage of the incredible opportunity that New Haven promise provides you.”

Thanks for tuning in, and now get back to work, said DeStefano after the speeches came to a close, proudly wearing his UConn shirt.

In an eighth-grade classroom this morning after the ceremony, students shared their own aspirations. One student said she wanted to be a paleontologist, another an engineer.

English teacher and University of Connecticut graduate Kim Francis told her students she was the first in her family to earn a college degree. Despite struggling with student loans and nagging difficulties with mathematics, Francis said she managed to work her way towards graduation.

The conversations in this room were mirrored in classrooms across the city, with teachers sharing their college experiences as part of College Day.

Starting in June and continuing in the fall, preK-8 schools across the district will hold a monthly College Day on a date of teachers’ choice.