PHILADELPHIA – With the midterm elections coming up and all the contention over our future, Philadelphia is moving forward with a program that will combat falling graduation rates. Both candidates for governor are spouting off about education in the state of Pennsylvania with Corbett pushing vouchers and Onorato talking about revamping charter school rules while addressing funding inequities. Without a doubt, education is the key to an individual’s economic future. This is even more painfully evident in the city of Philadelphia than in many other American cities.
Statistics released by the Philadelphia Inquirer show that only 10 percent of Philadelphian ninth graders in 2000 attended or college by 2009. This is a dismal state of affairs and is a major contributor to the city’s below-average income statistics. The median income in Philadelphia is 28 percent below the national average; a situation that desperately needs changing. Now, hopefully change is coming.
Just a few days ago, Mayor Nutter and School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman announced an innovative new program to combat this decline. The new program, called the Graduation Coaches Campaign, is geared around providing training to people that are in a position to mentor and guide students entering the college system. Mentors will be provided training by nonprofit organizations and a website on how best to work with students to insure that they make it into college and have the support and guidance needed to make it to graduation.
The program was announced during an event held at Philadelphia city hall recently and was attended by over 200 people , including representatives of organizations that helped with the campaign launch, including the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Six different community organizations will act as clearinghouses for the campaign including Lauretha Vaird’s Boys and Girls Club, the Congreso de Latinos Unidos, CORA Services Inc., Foundations Inc.’s Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology and others. The program’s website will hold the first training sessions at the municipal services building on Oct. 13 2010.
What it Means to Philadelphia Students
I think this is a very ambitious program since, according to the Chief Education Advisor for the City of Philadelphia; Lori Shorr, as many as 8,000 coaches will review the site during the first year and up to 5,000 will opt for the training program. Any program that includes training on how to guide students through the college applications, choosing career paths and setting realistic goals is one that simply must work. With a focus on problem solving skills needed for the college experience and timelines for assisting students in maintain academic performance, the mentors ahve their hands full, but it will be worth it to the students receiving the services-they might graduate college.
This initiative is crucial. From my own personal experience I can tell you that as a young High School student, the idea of college is daunting and if you have had a rough experience in high school as I did and as many do as a result of poverty and social factors, the prospect of going to college can be unnerving. I chose not to go until I found an online school to suit my needs in the “social area.”
I think that if I had had a mentor like this, the story might have been drastically different. There are not many programs that are this innovative and progressive and the city will certainly benefit. It also shows that you can accomplish a lot with out budget-crushing cost and a little community support. Perhaps Washington should be listening in on this one.
Susan Snyder,”New Philadelphia Campaign aims to increase College Graduation rate,” Philadelphia Inquirer
“Income Trend Data,” PhiladelphiaFed
Mentoring Campaign Home Page