By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — YESPhilly is a non-profit that uses art and creative incentives to motivate non-grads to do more than just get a GED.
Eighteen-year-old Najua Curtis had a huge smile on her face.
“It was a struggle, but I made it. I had a lot of obstacles.”
Najua received a free laptop this week after earning her GED in four months with the help of YESPhilly. She is now a student at Community College of Philadelphia.
“It makes me feel like I am somebody, I guess.”
YESPhilly, located on North Broad Street near Girard Avenue, uses art, education and life skills training to re-engage youth school drop outs age 17 to 21. Program Director Gary Paprocki says they add positive re-enforcement, such as award ceremonies and graduation gifts like laptops and video cameras, to keep the youngsters motivated.
“For them, there wasn’t somebody there that they could connect to, to say, ‘hey, you’ve got to stay with this.’ They have never had that feeling of success, so what we try to do is set up small incremental goals for the students.”
The group gives the students a two-month plan and then awards those who are successful.
“We usually do that at the beginning of a program cycle so that the new students coming in can meet the ones who have been here for a while. The [new students] can see the awards and the incentives and what we give them out for. And then the old students can say, hey I got an award, I can keep going.”
Paprocki says over the past 18 months, 30 students have earned their GED and 22 have moved on to college. He says YESPhilly helps students see that they can have a career and a bright future.
For more information about YESPhilly or to donate, go to YESPhilly.org.