Graduation Celebration Bags

Two hundred Philadelphia high school seniors were able to pick up a little bit more than their cap and gown at graduation rehearsal this year. Promise Corps and 12PLUS gifted the 200-plus students with a bag of life essentials to celebrate them moving forward in their diverse post-secondary steps. 

Whether it includes moving into their first apartment, transitioning into college life at a dorm or off campus, remaining at home and transitioning into the workforce, taking a gap year or relocating – seniors were provided dozens of items to support their personal life journey.  

Promise Corps and 12PLUS staff filled large, canvas laundry bags with household items, such as cutting boards, frying pans, aprons, shower caddies, bed sheets, and even decorative house plants! Laptop accessories and phone chargers were also provided along with toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc.) Graduating seniors were also able to select books from a variety of titles ranging from “The Stock Market for Teens”, “Adjusting to College life” and the best-seller, “What Color is Your Parachute? For Teenagers”. 

And what bag of life essentials would be complete without access to a digital resource guide containing reflections and worksheets for continuing to prep and plan for their personalized post-secondary life? The resource guide includes access to job opportunities for high school graduates, links to benefits specific to young adults, financial literacy materials, mental health resources, and guidance on local elections as they occur. The digital resource guide is a living document that will have additions and updates throughout the year. 

With such a unique senior year experience behind them due to COVID-19, we hope all high school seniors are celebrated and recognized during this time of year for their amazing accomplishments and perseverance. These students endured an educational career like no other!  

Thank you for a memorable school year!  

Donations to students were done in partnership with the following entities:  

West Philadelphia High School 

Overbrook High School  

High School of the Future  

Sayre High School  

Kensington Health Sciences Academy  

Kensington High School  

Belmont Charter High School  

Hill-Freedman World Academy  

Penn Treaty High School 

Spring Break!

With the Philadelphia weather finally turning nice and the third marking period drawing to a close, the School of the Future team is looking forward to a spring break that will be balanced between relaxation and some career planning of our own. As part of our professional development, Zoraida asked all coaches to submit a proposal outlining the steps we are going to take to prepare for our post-Promise Corps plans. Though we will all be sad to say good-bye to our year of service, Future team is also excited for the next steps in our careers. 

Both Sierra and Emma said they are going to take advantage of spring break to focus on job searching. Sierra, who has a background in anthropology and museum studies said that she will “basically be scouring LinkedIn and Indeed for any jobs and applying to them. Additionally, coming up with a potential educational program to implement in a museum space to practice my program development skills!”  

Promise Corps is also providing ample support to the coaches as they plan and prepare for the next steps ahead. Emma said Jerome has been a great resource for her to lean on as she searches for future opportunities, as he has even agreed to meet with her one-on-one to answer questions and assist in any capacity he can. As for where she sees herself after Promise Corps, Emma said she is looking into college counseling, admissions, and academic advisor positions.  

Both Olivia and I have also been in the process of applying and interviewing for different positions in the education field as well, with the goal of using spring break to brush up on out interview skills.  

However, spring break is not going to be all professional development! After working hard with our students, each of us are also looking forward to having some time for much-needed self care. For myself and Emma, this means getting our second doses of the COVID vaccine, marking a positive step towards being able to all see each other in person again! Sierra also has family coming to visit, and she is excited to show them around Philadelphia. The School of the Future team wishes the rest of the Promise Corps teams, Promise Corps staff, and our students a very happy and sunshine-filled spring break!  

3rd Marking Period Finish Line

Students are gearing up to complete their grades for the third marking period across the School District of Philadelphia. Thanks to special support from Promise Corps Coaches and the magnificent teachers at West, students are feeling more motivated than ever to get these assignments done and finish the school year on a high note. “It’s been a tough year for everyone, but I think that the Promise Corps Coaches in my class sections have really helped me to stay on track,” said Melvin Rigney from West. A tough year might even be an understatement considering the challenges that an all Zoom, all online school year has brought. Yet students like Melvin and teachers like Mr. Wynne at West remains motivated and eager to finish this school year strong. “There are times when it seems like the Zoom school year has students beat. But with of the help in the classroom, students find a way to persevere,” said Mr. Wynne, a teacher at West. This sentiment is something I have seen throughout the school year. When we all work together, teachers, support programs, and students, there is still a way to connect and get things done, even with the digital barrier.

College and Career Coach, Harry Levant

Spotlight on our Promise Corps Coaches: Nijah Lewis

This week, I took the opportunity to chat with my colleague and friend, Nijah Lewis, one of the four Promise Corps College and Career Coaches serving at West Philadelphia High School this year. Nijah and I talked about the experience of serving the wonderful students at West, what inspires her outside of her work, and her advice for future Promise Corps Coaches! A special thanks to Nijah for taking the time to participate in our Promise Corps Blog! Go West!

Q: What is your favorite part about being a Promise Corps College and Career Coach?

Nijah: My favorite part about being a Promise Corps College and Career Coach is working with the students. These are trying and unprecedented times that we are in and I am grateful to be able to help guide them on their journey. They are a daily source of inspiration for me.

Q: Do you have a moment this year that has been very memorable?

Nijah: Our indigenous people day professional development was a memorable moment for me. It was the first time I had experienced the authentic history of this country in a professional setting. I also learned a lot about the culture of indigenous people.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in serving with the Promise Corps next year?

Nijah: Do your research. Learn the population that you will be serving and how your role within the program works. Take advantage of the networking opportunities that you are given. Be open and flexible.

Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?

Nijah: Outside of work I enjoy reading novels and writing poetry. I often walk trails and I enjoy listening to music. My grandmother has recently gotten me into crocheting.

Q: Do you have advice for students who are combating Zoom Fatigue right now?

Nijah: Fill your atmosphere and space with things that are aesthetically pleasing. Consider burning candles and putting up led lights. Play lofi hip hop or sounds of the ocean in the background while you’re in class. Take as many breaks away from the screen as you need. Drink water!

Q: What is a source of inspiration for you?

Nijah: One of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life is young people. My mentees inspire me on a daily basis. I am also inspired by the girl on tik tok that makes videos informing her peers of the current state of politics. The student that takes care of his younger brother and sister while his mom is working also inspires me. No matter what’s going on in the world, at the end of the day I go to bed with the understanding that “The kids are alright” and that pushes me to do all that I can do to better myself so that I can be a resource and support for the youth.

Harry Levant, College and Career Coach at West Philly High

Scholarship Workshop at School of the Future

     It’s about that time for seniors in high school to start getting their college acceptances! With the excitement of solidifying the next steps and getting ready for postsecondary success comes the logistics of going to college: money. While most seniors have filled out FAFSA and PHEAA, some students may be experiencing some anxiety around still being able to afford tuition, housing, and transportation. This is where scholarships come in!

     Even though the workshop was during lunch and held for the full duration of the period, there was a great student turnout in the end. The coaches at Future considered the event a success, with Ms. Olivia adding, “[our] students were actively engaging and excited about planning for their postsecondary careers.” From the student perspective, they got formal information in an informal workshop. One senior who attended said, “I’m glad I decided to join the workshop because I didn’t even know where to start with scholarships, there’s just so many and it really helped.” 

     The cost of college is on a lot of seniors’ minds as acceptances start to roll in. Students are making their decisions for their future, and in considering the cost of school, they are looking at multiple sources to help fund their education. Scholarships are the best kind of money (because it’s free money!) and there are plenty out there waiting to be found and applied for! 

Sierra Serna, College & Career Coach at School of the Future

MLK Day, a Day ON

Monday, January 18, 2021, The United States of America observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To honor his memory, people are given the day off from school and work and many all across this country choose to be of service to others in need. Americorps observes this day with its members not as a day off, but as a day on. 

The West Philadelphia Promise Corps spent the morning reflecting on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King and the impact he has left on this world. Later that day, Promise Corps partnered with Turning Points for Children to host a virtual event for the families of the community. During the event, Promise Corps coaches read these three short books to the families attending about embracing and loving oneself:  I Love My Hair by Nataha Anatasia Tarpley, Happy in our Skin by Fran Manushkin, and Unique and Wonderful by Dee Smith. 

Following the reading, the families participated in an arts and craft hour led by the staff at Turning Points for Children. During the arts and craft hour, the attending families were taught about the art style of cubism pioneered by the artist Pablo Picasso during 1907. Cubism uses three-dimensional geometric shapes to abstractly display images in a disintegrated form to suggest multiple viewpoints. After learning about the Cubism movement, the families were tasked with a project to create a self-portrait using cubism. By the end, each kid created a beautifully made self-portrait in the style of cubism infused with their own personal style. 

The event was a complete success! Promise Corps and Turning Points for Children were so grateful to have spent MLK Day with the fabulous families in our community!

Arianna Coleman, Overbrook High School College and Career Coach