Huntington Beach High School Principal Rocky Murray speaks with seniors and parents during the school's first College Commitment Day on Thursday. (SCOTT SMELTZER, HB Independent / May 5, 2014)

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Members of the Huntington Beach High School graduating class of 2014 took a step toward higher education by declaring in a ceremony which university they will be attending in the fall.

The school on Thursday became the first in the district to host a College Commitment Celebration, when about 250 college-bound students sporting T-shirts or hoodies from their university of choice were cheered on by their families.

"These students put in an incredible amount of work," parent Brad Morton said. "To get accepted these days into some of these colleges is a very tough thing to get accomplished."

The names of about 90 colleges and universities from across the country lined the walls of the gym, where the seniors had gathered.

Many of the students wore Cal State Long Beach, San Diego State or Cal State Fullerton apparel, although a few donned gear from Stanford, Brigham Young University and the University of Alabama.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District is "really trying to create an atmosphere that supports and promotes students going off to four-year universities," Assistant Principal Jason Ross said. "There had been discussions at the district level just thinking about doing an academic signing day in the same way we do an athletic signing day."

Working with his staff and the Huntington Beach High School PTSA, Ross was able to bring the district's dream to fruition.

"Learning is a lifetime business," district board member Bonnie Castrey told the students Thursday. "We must continue to learn before we get old, because otherwise we won't keep up with society."

After comments from Ross, Principal Rocky Murray and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw, parents joined their children as they signed their names on posters that bore their university's name.

Senior Kate Morton posed for her parents in front of a University of San Diego banner. She plans to major in theater with a minor in medieval and Renaissance studies at the Roman Catholic private school.

"I had to choose between the University of San Diego and Northwestern," she said. "But I just liked the home-like feeling the University of San Diego had and, like, how accepting and nice the people were."

On the other side of the gym, senior Natalie Thomas chose San Diego State, where she plans to major in dance.

"Eventually I want to go back and get my nursing degree, but for right now, I want to explore dance and see what that has in store for me," she said.

Thomas' mother, Tina, said she's going to miss her daughter when she moves to San Diego but added that she'll make the 1 1/2 hour drive south as often as she can to check on her.

"I'm going to be crashing the parties and spending a lot of time down there," Tina Thomas said with a laugh.

For the Rymer family, however, visiting their daughter, Sienna, at the University of Alabama will not be so convenient.

Though their child will be thousands of miles away from Huntington Beach, parents Andy and Devon Rymer said it will good for their daughter to experience life outside of Southern California.

"We lived in Louisiana for eight years when she was young, so she's always wanted to go back to the south," Devon Rymer said.