November Senior of the Month – Charity Robbins
When you meet Charity, you’re struck immediately by her bubbly personality and enthusiasm. She launches quickly into stories and talks effusively about the things she likes, of which there are many, so it’s a flurry of lively details. She’s overwhelmingly positive and excited to share. She’s interested in everything, and juggles it all with zeal. When you hear about her unique past, you realize what she’s overcome to get to where she is today. Her success, motivation, and glowing optimism are all the more impressive.
Charity came to the School District by way of a non-traditional path. She was homeschooled until 9th grade because of her family’s religious beliefs at the time, but when her mother separated from her father, she enrolled Charity and her youngest sister in public school. Because Charity didn’t have the typical test scores and grades of a matriculated 8th grader, she started at her nearest neighborhood school, Frankford High School. Immediately, she fell in love with learning in a whole new way, and once she realized she wanted to be in a place that challenged her even more, she started looking purposefully for schools that offered the kinds of advanced science classes and a variety of clubs she wanted. She toured Carver and knew right away that it was the school for her.
Her first year at Carver was during the pandemic and school was virtual. She still made the most of it, loading up on science classes, and working with her favorite chemistry teacher to create a virtual science club. “We did experiments at home that you might not have thought of as fun, but were really interesting – like the science behind the cooking of an egg and how the molecules change during cooking. And I met people, even though it was virtual, which was really helpful,” she recalls fondly. When school resumed in person, she joined the robotics club because it was something totally new to her. “I’d never built a robot before – I’d never built anything! It was such a great experience – I got to work with a team and build relationships, and it was amazing because if you don’t work together, and work together well, you can’t win. Our group formed a little family and I was so proud of it.”
She treats every day at Carver like it’s a buffet of opportunities and she wants to sample some of everything. Charity is the president of the Carver E&S National Honor Society, founder of the Science Club at Carver, and Captain of the Robotics Team. She has completed many dual enrollment courses through the Community College of Philadelphia, all while maintaining outstanding grades and Distinguished Honor Roll status at Carver.
She’s also actively involved in school clubs and her community outside the classroom. She works at Fox Chase Cancer Center as a Student Fellow, where she helps out with projects ranging from BETA tests to managing the social media accounts of the science programs. She participated in the Teen Research Internship Program, conducting independent research on the effects of Coca-Cola; Summer of 2021 participated in PENN Laboratory Experiences in Natural Sciences; Summer of 2021 participated in PENN Neuroscience Summer Research Academy. She is particularly proud of her independent research of Coca-Cola on developmental memory in fruit flies.
Charity is equally enthusiastic in her devotion to life at home. As part of a family with many siblings, mostly grown, she currently lives with her mom and littlest sister, Faith. Her support and delight in everything her sister gets to experience as part of their new life is genuine and selfless. “Faith is the first in our family to attend public her entire life. She’s in third grade now. She’s the most bubbly person, kind of like me. She’s artsier so I help her with science and math. I’m so happy for her – she has so many opportunities to choose to do things that I didn’t get to do, like ballet. She’s been exposed to so many people; so she’s able to make friends, and build social skills to meet and work with people and make friends. Growing up, I only had my cousins, so this was all very new to me when I got to high school.”
Charity’s dream is to pursue a career in chemistry and medicine. She would like to go into drug design and pharmaceuticals, particularly drugs that alleviate pain, which makes sense for a scientist interested in helping people. “As a young woman, I was inspired by my mother’s strength to leave her situation as she wanted better for us. Through my experience, I want to leave an impact on this world that is transformative and impactful for generations to come!”
We asked Charity our favorite list of questions:
1. What does being named Student of the Month mean to you?
It was a very personal thing because I didn’t even enter the District until four years ago so I had a short window to figure out how I could take advantage of everything my school had to offer.
What it means to me is that your background and circumstances don’t define you. When I got here I hadn’t ever taken science or math – it was foreign to me. I got C’s in Algebra at first and I just had to work so hard to improve and study and figure it out. I took advantage of all the resources, taking home textbooks and working with my teachers and now math is one of my favorite subjects. I took pre-calc at community college so I could take AP Calc this year, that’s how much I love it.
I hope it just really means to others who may also have difficult circumstances that it is possible, if you work hard, to do anything.
2. Why do you think you were nominated for Student of the Month?
I was so surprised – I didn’t even know about it at first and people were just walking up to me saying congratulations!
So I was trying to do some reflection. I think something Mr. Neal saw in me is that I think I’m really passionate about helping others. That’s because I didn’t have many opportunities before I came here, so that’s caused me to want to help people in any way I can. So for example, if I learn something, I immediately think, ‘how can i use my skills to help others?’ That’s what got me into the National Honor Society in the first place (she’s the current president!); we have a homework zone where we do peer tutoring. I think that’s so important – helping others. I’m also very involved in my school community – whenever there’s an event, I try to figure out how to help, because I love our small tight-knit community and I want to do as much as I can while I’m here.
3. You were nominated by Mr. Neal, your counselor. Explain your relationship with him. Why do you think he nominated you specifically?
When I started school in 9th grade, literally everything was new to me. I literally shook sometimes, when I walked into the building; it was all so overwhelming. So from the beginning, I always took advantage of the counselors. I feel so lucky I got Mr. Neal. He’s amazing. He’s so nice – he always has his door open and he’ll skip lunch if you show up and need him. I can tell him anything.
Also, I really appreciate having someone there to help me who looks like me, and who has that shared experience. I’m very grateful to have a counselor like him.
We got to ask Mr. Neal directly why he nominated Charity. He said with clear admiration, “I was just trying to think about a student who embodies the ideals not just of a student at Carver but a citizen of our city.
Charity has it all. She’s a super student, she’s so involved in her school, she participates in so much, she is constantly helping others, she loves her teachers and her spirit is just contagious! I’m so amazed at her story, her journey, and how she just didn’t let any of that stop her, and that resiliency outshines anything.
She proves that if you are organized, determined, and focused on what you want, there’s nothing that can stop you.”
4. What is one thing you’d like to share about yourself that most people don’t know about you?
That’s hard cause I talk so much! But one thing I don’t think most people know is that I absolutely love painting, especially watercolors. I think I like it so much because at school it’s all critical thinking and super hard sciences, and painting is the exact opposite of that. Art is best when you make mistakes! And my sister is also into art, so it is something we can do together.
5. What do you enjoy most when you are not at school?
I really like to spend time with my friends. Especially as a senior, knowing we won’t all be together every day, very soon. That also makes me excited but in the meantime, I like to make sure to spend time with friends.
Also, I like to listen to music because I don’t get to during the day. I love Broadway musicals, especially Hamilton. I saw that 8 times! It fills me with joy, I’m a total fanatic. I also love In The Heights and Legally Blond. I love them all.
6. In your opinion, what is the best thing about attending school at Carver?
It’s so many things! But I think the best thing is that, when the students have a concern, we have the space to let the administration know, and they’ll hear us, and they’ll help. For example, after COVID we said we weren’t in the right mental space, so we built in some time for mindful activities during class time, and those are run by peers. We paint, and make stress balls, or play relationship-building games. So we had the freedom to do something about our stress, and we did it in a way that helps us by realizing our peers are going through the same things. I just like the fact that when we have an issue, the teachers try to help us fix it. Everyone here is here to help.
7. In your opinion, what is one thing that the School District could do to improve our service to students?
First, students need to feel as though they’re hard and seen – at home, you’re told what to do and at school, you have so much to do and you’re measured by grades. So have teachers who are passionate and focused on helping students more.
Another thing – there needs to be more opportunities in all District schools, not just the special criteria schools. All students should have the same opportunities, and access to resources and information, especially information and connections with internships and jobs. We should help our students explore their interests outside school and give them the resources to do so.
To quote Mr. Neal one last time, “Charity we are so proud of you – you make us smile every time we see you!” Best of luck to you Charity in all that you pursue next!