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Four Philadelphia-area high schools get $200K for college prep

Photo: Shannon Nolan

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Students at four Philadelphia-area high schools now have a greater chance of going to college, thanks to a $200,000 grant.

College Possible, a nonprofit that offers college preparedness services for low-income students, accepted the grant from AT&T during an event at Parkway Center City High School on Wednesday. The money will be split among its four partner high schools: George Washington, Parkway Center City, West Philadelphia, and Upper Darby High School in Delaware County.

“In our first year of programming in Philadelphia, College Possible is adapting our proven national model to a new city,” said Wyneshia Foxworth, executive director in Philadelphia. “Our coaches, recent college graduates, are eager to work with students to cover the basics and give them resources to navigate the college process.”

Serving 19,000 students at 53 partner high schools nationally this year, College Possible sends each school an AmeriCorps member to act as a coach, meeting with students twice a week beginning during their junior year. They provide hands-on instruction throughout the entire college application process into the students’ senior year.

Juniors begin with practice materials for SAT and ACT exams and coaches who orient them with college fairs and tours. Then students receive help with their applications and information on financial aid and available scholarships. The coaching continues until students graduate from college.

Parkway Center City principal Karren Dunkley said that when she first heard of the program that would support her students with their college application process, she was more than interested. Parkway had a 93 percent graduation rate last year and a 66 percent college-going rate the year before, according to state and District data.

“It’s about lifelong learning. It’s about, when our scholars leave us, they will be able to succeed academically, emotionally, socially, and psychologically in the world,” said Dunkley. "So, it’s college, career, and beyond, and we are committed to that.”

Parkway junior Garrison Keane always knew college was in his future, but didn’t know where to start or how he could afford it. He hopes to attend New York University in two years and said his College Possible coach helped him realize the importance of smart financial decisions that would help shape his future.

“I used to hear so many rumors and myths about the college application process, but now I see that they aren’t true,” Keane said. “My coach, Kira [White], has helped me see college as a possibility and see what I can accomplish.”

White said she uses her own college experiences to guide her students through the application process, and she has seen the impact of close mentorship.

“I see these students remain resilient in the face of chaos and confusion, because there are no days off when you’re chasing such big dreams.”

Shannon Nolan is an intern at the Notebook.

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