College Visit Season at Overbrook


On Monday, December 4th, three members of the Overbrook Promise Corps team, our site supervisor, and the school counselor took thirty seniors and two juniors to Millersville University for a college tour. The morning was brisk as a bitter fog took over the landscape surrounding Overbrook High School. With a two-hour bus ride ahead of us, the mood was serene as we groggily boarded the school bus and departed on our journey. Some students slept peacefully to the hum of the diesel engine, while others watched the city fade into the distance as we weaved through traffic into the more open land of manure and rolling fields. For some students, adventures west out of Philadelphia are the best moments for them to reflect on their experiences within the city. As we passed the secluded homes that sit comfortably on acres of land, students openly questioned how their home-environments could be so vastly different. West Philadelphia’s trees lost their appeal as we passed miles of open pasture, which prompted one student to claim, “…they don’t have any trash around here!” Eventually, the allure of the farmland was diluted by the primal need for a bathroom. As the universal need for a restroom finally peaked, we arrived at the admissions office of Millersville University.

After getting situated in Lyle Hall, a more relaxed platoon of Promise Corps members and Overbook High School students got seated for an admissions video and question session. The students were engaged and confident with their questioning, strongly demonstrating their preparedness and abilities. One student, who, perhaps recognizing a trend in the video questioned, “How diverse is the school?” The admissions officer cited a 17% diversity rate and provided the students with reassuring anecdotes of her own experiences at the university as a member of a minority group. The questions soon faded, and the urge to see the ins and outs of the campus was eventually satiated.

The group was split in thirds and we began our walk. The air of Millersville University had subtle hints of manure and the local pond. This deviation from the congestion of Philadelphia was welcomed by some, and too-foreign for others. As the walk progressed, we were introduced to many of the local campus eateries, classrooms, athletic arenas, and best of all – the dormitories. We were brought into the East Village, a complex of premier suite-style dorms that the students were shown around. Many were quite shocked to see the size of the classic college-dorm-twin-bed, but some saw many potential perks of the rooms. One student told me with excitement, “I could totally see myself cutting hair right in the middle where the mirror’s at!” as we stood in front of the also classic college suite-hallway-sink-with-mirror. Hearing their enthusiasm about having the chance to live in this pristine residence hall was just one of the many heartwarming moments that I was blessed to receive that day.

After vacating the dorms, we made our way to our final stop: Gordinier Hall. The dining hall, dubbed the “Upper Deck,” was adequately prepared for the appetites that made entry. The buffet style eatery had the staples of college dining; a made-to-order burger station, followed by sandwich and salad stations, a wok with a personal chef, a dessert station, and of course substantial amounts of pepperoni pizza. As we were eating, I noticed one of my students sitting with a group of three Millersville students, casually eating and joking around. As we left the dining hall, I asked him if he knew the people that he was sitting with. In his happiest voice he boasted, “Of course Coach – that’s Chris! I wrestled with him last year at Regions, he’s the man! He goes here now.” It is conversations like these, and like the ones in the dorm room hallway, that leave me in awe of the kind of power that the smallest interactions or most taken-for-granted things have on us.

As we walked to the bus, we passed by the Marauder statue that was covered in pennies placed by passing Millersville students. Some students stood and looked at the statue. A few questioned why people would leave their money on a statue. Others added to the tradition.


Hopes for admission to the university were high as we boarded the bus. Meetings were held between the OHS school counselor and admissions personnel, and 2 students were granted admission pending a completed application! A big shout out to CCA Ashley Bell who spearheaded the trip and conducted the operations seamlessly and the Overbrook Alumni Association, who paid for everyone to eat in the dining hall. Also a big thank you to Millersville University, and all that made the trip possible.

– Fred Cacace, College and Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School

College Visit Season At West

Over the month of November, the West Philadelphia Promise Corps team sponsored three college trips for our students. With the opening of the FAFSA and Early Decision deadlines creeping up, we decided November was the perfect month to host college tours.

Our first college tour was to La Salle University. One of my team members, Kaitlin, and I embarked on the journey from West Philadelphia to Olney with 10 of our students. As soon as we arrived on the campus, we were greeted by the monumental St. John the Baptist de La Salle statue. Minutes later, our tour guide appeared and we began a walking tour of the campus. During the tour, we stopped by most of the buildings on the north campus. Students were able to see simulation labs for nursing majors, the school’s Division 1 athletic stadium, the student union, and the newly renovated business building just to name a few. After the tour, we sat in on an information session presented by the Philadelphia region Admissions Counselor Carlos Vargas. La Salle University concluded our tour by graciously providing lunch for our students while they were fed with information about the admissions process.west-1.jpg

Next on our College Tour stop was Swarthmore College. West visited the beautiful campus with the other three Promise Corps sites. We exited our school bus and proceeded into the main quad of the campus. Our breaths were taken away by the massive lawn with lawn chairs to match its grandiose atmosphere. While waiting for our tour guides to arrive, students were scattered around the lawn and on the porch filling out information cards provided by the school.

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While on the walking tour, students were amazed by the beautiful views provided by the nature surrounding the school. One thing that stood out to students on the trip was the school’s outdoor amphitheater. When you walk up to the auditorium, you are taken aback by the in-ground seats covered with grass and bordered by stone. As you walk further, you see the beautiful stage with same features as the seats. The school uses the space to host various campus events when the weather permits. Like the La Salle tour, after the walking tour we all met back up to listen to an information session with lunch provided by Domino’s.

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Last on the November College Tour stop was the illustrious University of Pennsylvania. The University of Penn tour was different from the rest of the tours we went on for a few reasons. First, before we kicked off the tour, students sat in an hour-long information session led by one of Penn’s Admissions Counselors. After the information session was over, we went on a walking tour of Penn’s majestic campus. We visited buildings such as the famous Wharton School of Business building. When the tour was over, students ate lunch provided by the school. Another difference from other trips was that when lunch was over, students had the option to sit in college classes to get the feel of what they will experience next fall.

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In conclusion, we started off this college tour with the intentions of broadening our student’s horizons, by showing them schools they wouldn’t normally visit. After hearing feedback from our students, I can say my team and I successfully achieved that goal.

– Dionna Sanders, College and Career Ambassador at West Philadelphia High School

College Visit Season at Sayre

On November 8th, the Sayre Promise Corps Team took 21 students to La Salle University to initiate our college tour season. We were accompanied by our juniors and seniors, riding the Septa trains to our destination. What an adventure it was to fit 26 people on the train and make sure that we all stayed together at the free interchange! While at La Salle, we were informed of the programs they offer and were guided through the campus, allowing the students to picture themselves at the university. We visited the library and saw a couple of typical classrooms that students would have classes in. After the tour, the undergraduate admissions officer reviewed important information about the application process and requirements to apply.

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The following week, the Sayre, Overbrook, Future, and West Philadelphia Promise Corps teams brought 80 students to Swarthmore College. This may have been the second college trip we’ve had, but it is no doubt going to be a solid contender for the title of “most beautiful campus” and “best liberal arts college” the students will visit this year… Did I mention I went to Swarthmore?


“What a magical place!” was the sentiment that many students may have felt while walking through the autumn leaves and lush greenery of Swarthmore’s campus. Beauty isn’t the only thing that captivated the students. As the tour guides weaved through the campus, they brought students through the Performing Arts Center, which houses a plethora of dance classes offered by Swarthmore College, such as ballet, modern/contemporary dance, African, salsa, and much more. As you might imagine, Swarthmore captivated a number of students interested in dance majors or minors.

Nevertheless, there remained more to stir the appetites of students hungry for new experiences and knowledge. After we went to the Performing Arts Center, the tour guides led students through the Science Center, showing them the small, seminar-style classes where college students can dive into deep conversations about their subjects. Throughout the tour, students saw that the depth of Swarthmore was not constrained solely to the classroom, but extended to the libraries, dining halls, and quirky dormitories where academics, social activities, and pursuits for meaning are interwoven.

By the end of the tour, students learned that Swarthmore’s high standards extend beyond just the beautiful campus to the academics and expectation that students develop their unique selves to the fullest extent. With that said, Swarthmore has left some students astounded and has earned its spot on their list of colleges to apply to.

sayre3– Richard Vu, College and Career Ambassador at Sayre High School

Student Spotlight at School of the Future

This is dedicated to a senior at High School of the Future. Karon Banks-Bailey has been working extremely hard on his college applications for weeks with his CCA, Marylissa Barbosa. His dream school is Delaware State University, and even though he hasn’t heard anything from them yet, he is still hopeful for that acceptance letter. He has already been accepted into two schools here in Pennsylvania: East Stroudsburg University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. These may not be his dream schools, but he is one of few seniors who has already been accepted into two schools! Karon has also successfully completed his FAFSA, which made him eligible to receive a free Chipotle burrito during our FAFSA Fiesta, which was held right before the Thanksgiving Break. This was an incentive for seniors to complete their FAFSAs soon after it opened in October.

I don’t think I can highlight enough how hard he has been working- not just on his college application process, but his senior project as well. Karon takes his studies very seriously and it shows. He takes the time to stay after school, and spends his lunch periods in the Promise Corps room focusing on his studies. It is encouraging to see a student with such a great work ethic.

Once he is off to college, we can only hope that he continues putting his studies first, and stays true to his unique personality! Karon wants to major in Mass Communication with hopes of becoming a Radio Personality. He eventually wants to be on his own TV show, and with his vibrant personality, that is very possible! We are very proud of Karon here at School of the Future, and we are anxiously waiting until he gets his acceptance for his dream school Delaware State University!

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– Shaquana Gantt, College and Career Ambassador at School of the Future



National Make A Difference Day is held every year as a nation-wide initiative to bring volunteers and communities together to improve the lives of others. This year NMADD was held October 28, 2017. As Promise Corps CCAs, we spend our days working with 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to ensure they are taking the proper steps to achieve their post-secondary career opportunities. We serve and work to make a difference in the lives of these students.

On this day, we wanted to engage our students and allow them to be involved in their surrounding community. The Overbrook and Sayre teams joined forces and participated in a litter and leaf cleanup in the South Philadelphia area. Along with other volunteers, we spent the day picking up trash, pulling out weeds, and shoveling leaves. After we finished, a lunch that consisted of grilled cheese, cookies, salad, and water was served! It was a great day to come together with people I work with, as well as other volunteers.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” As a Promise Corps CCA, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of people to make strides towards improving the lives of students in the West Philadelphia area as well as encourage them to create a positive change in the community they live in. Litter and Leaf cleanup was a good reminder that age, gender, race, and economic status do not define how much or how little you can do to help the people around you. All it takes is ONE DAY to make a difference.

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“ I love looking at a project and taking a snapshot in my head and then looking again at the end condition. It’s awesome to see the transformation a couple of people can make. I always imagine what it would be like if everyone would pitch in just a little bit… our communities could thrive.” -Haley Snyder

“A community cleanup may seem a surface level endeavor. In reality it is much deeper than that. As I disposed of old trash or pulled persistent weeds, I reflected and felt myself changing with the earth that was changing too. Each piece of trash removed represented a fresh start from an old mistake, and every weed pulled was a chance for life to start anew.” –Fred Cacace Jr.

“The best grilled cheese I ever worked for!”-Destiny Gadson

-Yaczin Hernandez, College and Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School

National Make a Difference Day – Engaging Students in Service

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. “

— Henry Ford

For those of you who do not know, National Make A Difference Day is a community service event held on the fourth Saturday in October every year. Since its initial founding, millions of people have united in a collaborative mission to improve the lives of others. Our students were eager to volunteer in their community and excited for the opportunity to give back.

On our National Make a Difference Day, we spent the day at the Salvation Army West Philadelphia Corps at the Corner of 55th and Arch. Run by Salvation Army Officers, Pastor Tony Lewis and Sister Laverna Lewis, they focus on engaging the surrounding area with everything from gardening to Martial Arts. As community leaders, their focus is to empower their neighbors through charitable sustainable services and counseling.


With all of the events the Salvation Army holds, they really needed help cleaning and organizing their event spaces. The students and CCAs of Promise Corps at West Philadelphia High School were happy to help! We split up into groups to cover more ground: sweeping and mopping floors, dusting windows, wiping down tables, vacuuming the chapel, organizing the music and equipment room, and reorganizing a children’s reading corner.

We asked our students to reflect on the services that the Salvation Army gave and the community service they provided that day. Our discussion was very meaningful and even opened up another conversation about the National Service that we as Promise Corps members are completing. My student’s input was that, “People don’t always stay in Philadelphia but, I don’t mind staying here to help and show others that they can make a difference.” After hearing this I want to give more opportunities to the students to see how they can better their communities.


– Kaitlin Dugan-Murrell, College and Career Ambassador at West Philadelphia High School