Member Spotlight: Colin Cunningham

pasted image 0My name is Colin Cunningham, I grew up in Connecticut and am currently doing my service year with the West Philadelphia Promise Corps. I graduated from Muhlenberg College in the spring with a degree in Political Science. I decided I wanted to do a service year during my final semester in college due to my studies. After reading about the systematic barriers that urban students face on a day to day basis I began looking for ways I could help. So I began looking for service programs in the area of education, because my father and grandfather are career educators. The Promise Corps mission best aligned with what I was looking for. Helping students discover their post-secondary options, allows me to help them bypass some of these systematic barriers that keep them from pursuing their life goals. In my time so far at Overbrook High School, more affectionately called “The Castle on the Hill,” I have learned so much. Not only have I been able to see great progress with my students learning ability and the change of mindset that comes with academic success, but I have grown myself. I have learned how to be persistent, present and most importantly humble. I hope to continue serving the Overbrook family in every capacity I can, and look forward to the rest of my service year.

Mr. Cunningham is one of the three college and career coaches here at Overbrook. Mr. Cunningham goes above and beyond for his students and his team. Mr. Cunningham always puts his students first. Keep up the great work Mr. Cunningham. We see you !

-Miranda White, College and Career Coach at Overbrook High School

November Professional Development!

The Promise Corps team of coaches and staff gather together often, at least once per month for professional development centered on student support, sharing resources and learning about new initiatives that may be occurring in Philadelphia that effect Coaches and/or students.

So far this year we’ve hosted trainers from Mentor Independence Region to follow up on their Mentoring 101 session during orientation with a full 8-hour training that shared skills and strategies for mentoring young black and Latino men. You can learn more HERE about Mentor IR. We’ve also hosted a research team from Drexel University that shared local trends and important policies regarding the school to prison pipeline national challenge. You can learn more HERE about this crisis.

pasted image 0 (1)This month during a November professional development day, the team was joined by AmeriCorps members from the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers and gained training on Public Speaking and creating safe and brave spaces for LGBTQIA youth with a delicious pot luck in between! Notre Dame Mission Volunteers (NDMV) AmeriCorps members serve with local partners to expand access to education. NDMV’s primary approach is to offer small-group and 1-on-1 instruction at a variety of diverse sites such as traditional classrooms to neighborhood community centers. NDMV AmeriCorps members serve full time for 11 months.

Hosted by a public speaking advisor, Anthony Havrilla, AmeriCorps members were able to gain important tips and advice for improving their public speaking skills and ways to overcome any fears of speaking to an audience. All AmeriCorps members had opportunities to practice and provide feedback to improve their ability to speak to a group.

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The afternoon session was hosted by Hazel Edwards of the Attic Youth Center who shared excellent information to best support LQBTQIA youth in Philadelphia by increasing shared language, learning important historical context regarding the LGBTQ movement and discussing real life, recent questions and scenarios youth are experiencing concerning sexuality and gender.

As we move into the new year with additional professional development sessions planned and topics to consider, we recognize how fortunate we’ve been to host such diverse, experienced professionals to help us expand our knowledge and gain new skills to better support youth in Philadelphia. Thank you to all the trainers and speakers who joined Promise Corps so far this year and answered our questions, downloaded your knowledge and offered us the greatest gift of your time!



Teach Highlight: Ms. Brittni Pickett

hhhhOn October 31st, one of the Career and Technical Education classrooms were carefully decorated in pink and blue decorations. The students giggled with glee as they blasted Starrkeisha’s “Baby Mama” and walked their expectant teacher, Ms. Pickett, through a maze of riddles. After opening black boxes, popping pacifier shaped balloons, setting off confetti-filled party poppers, and a plethora of other ridiculous tasks, the mother to be was left driven crazy. She was dying to know the gender of her third child!

hhhMs. Pickett was finally led to a piñata. Encouraged to give it a good tug, she yanked the string hanging from the stomach of the paper mache unicorn, enjoying the festivities, but hoping that this was the last of the games that would finally tell her a little more about who’s been growing inside of her. The piñata cracks and a frenzy of candy and toy baby items trickle out. However, this time, everything was the same color. This was the moment Ms. Pickett learned what she is having!

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) program is an initiative that encourages students to deep dive into learning about career paths and propel them forward in their futures by teaching them skills that will prepare them for college-level courses and/or help them gain the knowledge needed to earn different types of certifications upon graduating from high school. Sayre’s program, in particular, helps students learn the skills necessary to become home health aides, rehab aides, certified nursing assistants, or sports medicine assistants if they start working immediately after graduation. If the students are seeking college as their post-secondary option, the curriculum gives them the basis that they need to pursue any college-level health-care program.

At Sayre, Ms. Pickett teaches a 10th and 12th grade Career and Technical Education Class, as well as a 9th grade Career Exploration class. She was brought to teaching when she was looking for a change of pace from her career as an Occupational Therapist. She joined the Sayre team two years ago, just as the CTE program was reinstated at the school. When asked about how she likes teaching, Ms. Pickett states, “I love it! I love the relationships that I have with my students… and seeing their growth.” Her relationship with her 12th grade class, this being the second year she has taught them, has grown the most. “In the beginning of the school year, they were the first people in the school that I announced my pregnancy to… That’s just a special bond that we have,” says Pickett.

hhAs the year went on, the students kept up with Ms. Pickett’s progress. Around the time that Ms. Pickett would be able to learn the gender of her child, her 12th grade CTE class asked if they could read the letter from her doctor first and throw a gender reveal party for her.

As the candy and toys fell from the body of the piñata, Ms. Pickett fell to her knees with pure joy. Her students surround her, cheering and sharing in her eagerness. One of her students passed her a small black and white picture of her ultrasound, confirming the baby rolling around inside of her is a little girl! “I was extremely excited!” said Pickett. “I would’ve been happy with a boy too. But I was extremely excited because I already have two boys. So, I’m excited to have the opportunity to raise a girl.”

The thought of departing from her teaching roll during her maternity leave was bittersweet for Ms. Pickett, but she hopes that her classes will be left in good hands until she returns.


Congratulations Ms. Pickett!!

-Ciera Osborne, College and Career Coach at Sayre High School

West Philly High to Washington DC

On Oct. 23rd, students, and alumni of West Philadelphia High School traveled to Washington DC for our first school trip of the year! It was a bright sunny day and we had a blast enjoying each other and exploring our nation’s capital. Promise Corps coaches served as chaperones along with other school staff. 

We started the day at 6am while the moon was still out. Students arrived at school and collected their breakfast and bagged lunches at the cafeteria. There was lots of great energy as we greeted each other in our outdoor gears and chatted in anticipation of the trip. Soon, buses arrived and off we went to Washington DC. 


We arrived late morning at the heart of the National Mall, a beautiful park home to iconic landmarks including the Lincoln memorial, US Capitol, and the White House. Students had selected to tour one of the famous Smithsonian Museums: the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, and the African American History Museum. After joining together for several large group photos, we organized ourselves into museum groups and headed off.

Walking around the National Mall was a delight! Students held hands and joked with each other while taking in the beauty all around. There was classical architecture, parks lush with greenery, and very tempting food trucks. It was a very welcome change of scene, topped with fresh air and sunlight.  IMG_3148

The next few hours saw what we had been waiting for: museum tours! Each was an exhilarating adventure. There was so much to see and learn. There were breathtaking exhibitions and unique stimulation. We admired the historical, cultural, artistic, and scientific treasures our country has to offer. We got busy arming ourselves with knowledge and souvenirs.

The groups met all together again at the Lincoln memorial and share stories of what we saw at the museums. Before heading back, we had dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. At 5:30pm, we boarded the buses back, exhausted and happy. Time to get a nap in and prepare to go back to school. It had been a very special day for us at West Philadelphia High!


– Ivy Tse, College and Career Coach at West Philly High


College Visit to Lincoln University!



Promise Corps partnered with GEAR UP to kick off the month of November with a visit to Lincoln University’s Open House. All four Promise Corps schools (High School of the Future, Overbrook High School, Sayre High School, and West Philadelphia High School) were in attendance for this event. Students and chaperones gathered first thing in the morning to load the bus. From High School of the Future went 38 seniors, Promise Corps College and Career Coaches Alexis, Antaneyah, Leigh, and Jared, and senior sponsor Ms. Snipes to Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in southern Chester County for the visit.

We began at Lincoln University’s International Cultural Center for the Welcome Ceremony where the student government and university administrators introduced themselves and gave an overview of what the university has to offer. This was followed by a campus-wide tour where we visited the Langston Hughes Memorial Library as well as some classroom buildings. Our tour guides told us about housing, academics, and student life at Lincoln University. We then attended the Campus Exhibit at the Student Union Building where student clubs, athletics, and academic departments displayed informational tables for our students where representatives discussed their programs with prospective students. We then visited the Wellness Center to eat lunch and watch a fashion show hosted by Lincoln University students. We ended our day with the Student Showcase at Manuel Rivero Hall where we watched performances from the band, cheerleaders, fraternities, and sororities. Several of our students received acceptances from Lincoln University for the 2020-2021 academic year! Around 5pm our bus returned to High School of the Future and everyone went off to enjoy the rest of the weekend. The students really enjoyed our day at the United States’ first Historically Black College and University.

Our first college trip to Lincoln University was a success. All the students were very involved and excited to be there. Our team managed forty kids from 9am to 5pm. We have been pushing our students to complete their FSA ID, personal statements, and applying to colleges. We also held a FAFSA pop-up here at School of the Future featuring Overbrook High School, Sayre High School, and West High School. We provided parents and students with pizza and drinks. We also did raffles to win movie tickets and Promise Corps swag bags! So far, our students have been on top with their requirements and us helping them meet those goals. If our room becomes busy, as a team we all chip in and work with two or more students per coach. We have a specific relax/chill music playing for them when they come in to work. We always make sure that they sign-in and get a slip from their class before coming in. Our upcoming events are two college trips, Shippensburg University and Delaware State University. School of the Future will be hosting an In-House college fair for the students. So far, our experience at SOF has been well. The faculty and principal loves having us on board with our college and career readiness agenda.


Jared Brooks – College and Career Coach at School of the Future

Staff Spotlight: Coach O of Overbrook!

When the Promise Corps team first got to Overbrook High School (OHS) we were informed about the great alumni from OHS. We talked more about the alumni that made it onto the Overbrook High School Wall of Fame.
The person that will be shouted out today is not only an alumnus of Overbrook, he is currently, an athletic coach at Overbrook High School. He is also posted in Overbrook High Schools Hall of Fame.
Meet Coach O.
“My name is Deworski Odom, I am a 42-year-old black male from Cordele, Georgia. I moved to Philadelphia with my mom between the ages of 4 and 5 years old. Fast-forward, I attended Overbrook High School and graduated in 1995. I was 8x high school All-American at Overbrook High School in track & field. I went to Wallace State Community College in Alabama. I spent 2 years at Wallace State and received All-American Status there. I ended up going to the University of Alabama for a few months and then transferred to St. Augustine College (now a university) in Raleigh, North Carolina where I was a 14x All-American. I only ran at St. Augustine’s for 2 season before going pro and signing a contract with Nike for 6 years. I retired from running back in 2005. Since then I have been the head track & field coach at Overbrook High School.”
Coach O is someone who we all should strive to be like. He is putting back into his community that put into him. Great job Coach O. We See You!
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-Miranda White, College and Career Coach at Overbrook High School