PHILADELPHIA -- Ninth grade students at University City and Sayre High schools in West Philadelphia will be the beneficiaries of a $300,000 competitive grant received by the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships from the AT&T Aspire Local High School Impact Initiative.
The funds will support programming designed to stem the dropout crisis.
The gift was presented Oct. 4 at University City High School in ceremonies that featured Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett and officials from AT&T, the Netter Center and the School District of Philadelphia.
“Dropping out of school exacts a human toll,” Corbett said, “"Over a lifetime, high school dropouts earn $1 million less than those with a college degree and are more likely to end up in the justice system or to require public assistance. They take a toll on the city, the state and the nation.”
This two-year grant will support the schools’ College Access and Career Readiness program, a component of the Netter Center’s comprehensive University-Assisted Community Schools strategy. Set up inside the two high schools in 2010, the CACR programs provide students academic support and guidance in making plans.
Specifically, the grant will provide academic support and enrichment to help 700 ninth-grade students elevate their academic performance and achieve on-time promotion to the next grade. Program staff coordinators, along with university students serving as graduation coaches and tutors, will develop a support system for these students to help them succeed academically, increase their chances of earning a diploma and begin planning for post-secondary success.
UCHS Principal Timothy Stults said the CACR program there, called Student Success Center, has already made a difference. He said UCHS has seen a dramatic rise in the number of students taking advanced placement courses, the school-wide attendance rate, the graduation rate and number of students with post-secondary plans.
UCHS senior Glen Casey is an example of these improvements.
“The Student Success Center got me on a positive path. I’ve gained skills, had the opportunity to work on projects, do college-level research and meet important people,” he said, referring to his fellow speakers.
Thanking AT&T for its support, Ira Harkavy, Penn associate vice president and Netter Center director, said this program will build upon more than two decades of successful collaboration between Penn and West Philadelphia partners, “deepening the partnerships that focus on college access, career readiness, retention and completion.”
Harkavy said community partnerships also help to make Penn a better university.
William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, who said he was tweeting Casey’s remarks as the student spoke, echoed thanks to AT&T and said he’s thrilled to have these programs in Philadelphia schools.
“We know that students exposed to college-access programs do better in school, students exposed to career-readiness programs are more successful on the job,” he said.
Sayre High School Principal Charles Ireland, himself born and raised in West Philadelphia and addressing the assembled students directly, said, “We’re all here for you. The only reason we do this work is so you guys can be successful.”
The goals of this grant go hand-in-glove with Opening Doors, the first lady’s initiative to ensure Pennsylvania youth have a promising future.
“Together with organizations like the Netter Center and committed companies like AT&T, we can help open the doors to a brighter future for our children, our Commonwealth and our nation," Corbett said.
Noting that there were thousands of applicants for the grants, Joseph Divis of AT&T External Affairs, congratulated the Netter Center and the staffs at both schools for their work, adding, “Together, we can confront the drop-out problem head-on.”