PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A group of recent high school grads wrapped up a six week program at U-Penn that prepped them for college.
It’s called “College Bridge.” Funded by the Netter Center and Philly Youth Network, the program puts recent graduates from West Philadelphia and Sayre High Schools through the rigors of college life.
“What does it mean to be on a campus, cross campus for multiple classes, navigate what assignments, who do you talk to get help,” says Andrew Scherea, co-director. He says the six week program teaches the students how to plan their studies and exposes them to what it’s like to read hundreds of pages for just one class. But the program also allows them to reflect on their years in public schools.
“They had to look at their own experiences,” he says, “I was impressed at their reflection, their research and their solutions.”
“Teachers are a big influence,” says David Diamond, who graduated from WPH and is headed to Lockhaven University. He says career training programs helped him figure out his goals in life and believes they should be expanded to help curb the drop out rate.
“It would help students actually find out what they want to do,” he says, “that would keep them in school and motivated.”
Diamond says he plans to study computer science and then go into the US Air Force. Kiara Lights, a Sayre grad, says he goal is to become a nurse and then a mid-wife after she graduates from Community College of Philadelphia.
“I feel like I can make it,” she says, “I really want to be somebody and make my parents proud.”
Lights, who has a five month old son, says she is more determined than ever. She studied the impact overcrowding had on her education, recalling moments when frustration bubbled to the surface.
“In my first year of high school, in French we had more than 40 kids in the class and the teacher could barely teach,” she says, “we were so close to each other and people were arguing and fighting– the teacher couldn’t even teach.”
Lights says some students cannot stay motivated under those conditions.
“Some people need a connection with the teacher to do good in school,” she says, “but I’m like they have their degree, but I want mine– so whether they like me or not, I am going to get it done.”
College Bridge brought in peer teachers who recently went through the program to help keep the participants motivated.
“I feel like it’s my duty to help,” says Glen Casey. He graduated from the program in 2013 and is now set to start his senior year at University of Pennsylvania.
“My neighborhood was really like crime and drug ridden,” he says, “I got into it a but, but the program help change my mindset and helped build my network so I could change my life around.”
Casey recently completed an 11 week internship at the Department of Education in Washington, DC. His goal is to work for Teach for America after graduation, but that’s just the beginning.
“I have this crazy goal– I want to go into politics,” he says, “maybe run for state rep and start influencing policy.”
He believes staying connecting with those he will eventually serve will be the difference maker.