Posted on June 14, 2023
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Categories: News from SDP

Yesterday, the School District of Philadelphia wrapped up its graduation season and celebrated a significant milestone for roughly 7,600 graduates who earned their high school diplomas.

“We are so proud of our trailblazing seniors who are making their mark, gaining national acclaim, earning prestigious awards from national organizations, entering the military and receiving employment opportunities from local and global companies,” said Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr., Ed.D. “As I visited schools throughout the year I was, and continue to be, inspired by the stories that the seniors shared and the high expectations they set for me as the superintendent, and the District as a whole. These high expectations will have a direct impact on the future of our District and the city as a whole.”

This year’s seniors were the first to complete the new state graduation requirements, which were enacted in 2018 by Pennsylvania’s Act 158. Through this new legislation, students must meet the criteria for one of five Pathways to Graduation outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As of June 2, 88% were on track to graduate.

This year’s graduates were awarded nearly 200 million dollars in scholarships, and includes the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship and multiple BigFuture Scholarship by CollegeBoard. These scholarship numbers were self-reported by students to their corresponding high school.

West Philadelphia High School senior Haoua Tall received over a million dollars in scholarship offers and will attend Penn State University in the Fall to study Biobehavioral Health.

“I am truly honored and beyond thankful that the schools have blessed me dramatically,” said Tall, who plans to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant. “Receiving these scholarships definitely helped me make plans for this next part of my academic journey. It also proves that hard work pays off and makes me proud to know that I have accomplished a lot of my goals to get into great schools and have financial support met. I am forever grateful.”

This year’s graduating class has college-bound students attending a variety of colleges and universities, Ivy League institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, locally and in states across the country.

Charity Robbins, a senior at Carver Engineering and Science and president of the school’s National Honors Society, was awarded a total of $20,000 in scholarships, including ones from both the Horatio Alger Association and Brighter Horizons Foundation.

“Being the recipient of these scholarships means so so much to me,” said Robbins, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania and plans to major in Chemistry and minor in Hispanic Studies. “As the daughter of a single mother making minimum wage and who never had the opportunity to go to college, it means that I can pursue my dreams without being a financial burden to my mother. I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to make her proud and break the cycle of not receiving a college degree in my family. Most importantly, I’m now able to set a great example for my little sister.”

Many students will also be entering the workforce with a competitive paying salary because of the training and exposure from the District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Seniors have accepted employment offers at a variety of companies, including the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Sonny Banks Law, The Carpenter’s Union, Kencrest and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Senior Samuel Martinez is among the 14 seniors who graduated through the Pennsylvania Talent Pipeline Project and will enter the local defense trade skills workforce. Martinez was offered a job before graduating high school and will begin working full-time for L3 in August, a competitive living wage, benefits and pension.

“This honestly means the world to me. I put in a lot of work and now the hard work is paying off,” said Martinez, who said that he saw from his father the impact of union and labor jobs on providing good benefits and wages. “For Mastbaum to have provided me this opportunity to get my certifications and training for free, it means a lot. The fact that I’m graduating with an amazing employment opportunity ahead of me, I’m still in shock.”

Thanks to the Building Trades Union led by Ryan Boyer, Philadelphia Council President and other elected officials, multiple seniors completed the Construction Trades Initiative at Strawberry Mansion and learned about construction jobs and financial literacy. Students graduated with an OSHA 10 certificate and have options for earning a living wage.

Students who have made the ultimate commitment to our country by enlisting within the various branches of the armed forces. Central High School’s Queenie Chiu will be attending the United States Air Force Academy, the first female to be accepted into the United States Air Force Academy from the District in the last five years. Chiu, who received a Congressional Citation from Congressman Dwight Evans during the District’s  “Our Class, Our Future” Senior Celebration in May, said she chose the Service Academy pathway because it would allow her to grow as a person by being surrounded by people who have similar ambitions as it is a direct pathway to becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.

“I’m so grateful and honored to be accepted to the United States Air Force and Naval Academy,” said Chiu. “Words can’t describe how much it means to my family and I to be able to attend one of these incredible institutions because it will not only bring me to lead a life of integrity and hold myself to a higher standard, but also provide a secure career for me post-graduation, while allowing me to serve our nation.”

Throughout the year, seniors had the opportunity to participate in the District’s new strategic plan, Accelerate Philly – the District’s roadmap for serving students, staff and community over the next five years. In addition, 203 graduating seniors were enrolled in International Baccalaureate programs, 1,200 graduating seniors were dual enrolled in higher education and 1,672 seniors will graduate with a Career and Technical Education Certification, enabling them to enter the workforce at competitive salaries.