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!

Future blog

– 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.

ohs 2

“ 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

Member Spotlight: Richard Vu

If you are reading this and you’re a recent graduate from college, someone wanting to engage in service, or simply searching for a life of meaning, this blog post is for you. Before becoming a College and Career Ambassador (CCA) for Promise Corps, I had been reflecting on where I wanted to go since I had graduated from Swarthmore College with a Major in Neuroscience. I’ve since come to realize that I crave meaning, purpose, and connection with others, and that this could only be satisfied if I could make a direct impact on the lives of others. For my job to become a calling, I must have the opportunity to nurture in others a love for courage and truth, and to support their quest for self-improvement and meaning.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I thought I was on the path to graduate school, a doctorate degree, and becoming a researcher in the neurosciences. I was on this path until my senior spring. The doubts I had about graduate school had bubbled to the surface, and I realized that while the process of learning and doing research was interesting to me, it did not provide the sense of connection and meaning that I craved. Yes, I learned about the brain, the neurochemistry behind the impulses we have, how hormones affect animal and human behavior and physiology, and a whole host of other fascinating topics. But these academic activities did not satisfy my desire for connection nor my desire to make a difference in the lives of others directly.


This is where Promise Corps comes into play. For me, Promise Corps represents that opportunity to foster connection, courage and truth, and a love of learning in myself and those around me. Over the past two months, the connections I have formed have helped me continue working even when things got challenging. Lucas, an experienced CCA, has been the wise Yoda of our group. He has taken the time to encourage us, guide us through the processes of planning different trips, and has actively sought to go beyond the surface-connection of academics and into the lives of students. Haley has spearheaded our efforts to maintain great relationships with our organization and the other members of the school community. Shae has been the calming and consistent, yet humorous force, that provides stability to our classroom. And last but not least, a former member, Ms. P., continually motivated me to do better, to focus on the positives, and to remember that what matters most is our students.

Thanks to the effort we’ve put in as a team, we have had numerous special moments that I hope will continue to happen. We’ve had impromptu dance and sing-offs with students, math competitions where we excitedly raced to see who could finish a problem first, and candid talks where we’d unveil our vulnerabilities to the accepting support of our peers. No matter whether it’s these fun-filled moments, or the tiny moments of victory when our students are able to keep pushing through tough classwork, I know that we are making a difference.

Having had these experiences, my future is no longer so clear cut. No longer is graduate school my set-in-stone answer to the question, “What are your next steps?” Instead, the pathways to education and to service have opened up. I’m excited to see how the rest of this year will influence my future. Until then, see you! rv.jpg

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

A Celebrity Visit At Future

Seniors at School of the Future had the privilege of having a guest celebrity speaker come in and talk to them about the importance of setting life goals and turning their dreams into realities. Kevin Savage, who is as an actor and model, encouraged the Future seniors to not only think about their dreams and life goals, but to chase them as well. He spoke about the steps it will take to attain their dreams and life goals, the adversities they will face, and the lessons they will learn along the way. He told his story, which is one that so many students are silently going through.


Through his story, he showed students that even with the odds stacked against him, he persevered. Like most students from School of the Future, Kevin was born in West Philadelphia, and he graduated from West Philadelphia High School. So, although he is an outsider to Future, he isn’t an outsider to the students. He connected with them so well – he understands their plights and struggles. It was amazing to see the seniors engaged, attentive, and enthralled in Kevin’s speech.


The fact that students wanted to stay after school on a Friday afternoon to talk with Kevin showed the impact his speech had on them. What made the day even cooler was that Kevin took time to watch and critique a student who wants to be an actor. The student was brave enough to perform in front of Kevin, and even braver to accept criticism from a professional actor, who is on the hit TV show The Quad on BET. Kevin even reenacted the improv! It was an honor for all of us to see his craft in person and boy, was he impressive!


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

Member Spotlight: Lauren-Ashley Wood

Lauren-Ashley Wood is a College and Career Ambassador professional working with Promise Corps. An alumna of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Lauren-Ashley majored in Political Science and double minored in Hotel Hospitality, Tourism Management, and the French Language. Lauren-Ashley worked for The Philadelphia Eagles Organization as a Game Day Staff Member for two football seasons. She is the former President of the College Democrats of America at Cheyney. She also worked as a volunteer for Hilary Clinton’s campaign. Lauren-Ashley has a passion for public and constituent service in the Philadelphia community. As an AmeriCorps member, she provides high school students with college and career access through advocacy within the school setting. Since the 2017-2018 school year has started, Lauren-Ashley and her team at Overbrook High School have provided 10th, 11th, and 12th graders through mentoring and motivational assistance, which they will continue to do for the remainder of the year.

lauren a headshot

With a background in politics, Lauren-Ashley was very interested in helping support the recreation of Student Government at Overbrook High School. The students took to the idea like moths to a flame. Both school administration and the Promise Corps team promoted the idea of non-partisan campaigning to the students and… Boom! The Promise Corps classroom became a mini campaign headquarters. Multiple students were working on their campaigns after school simultaneously. The high school seniors were creative while campaigning, giving their speeches, and debating one another. What was most exciting was when the commissioner’s office came to Overbrook High School to promote voting and even registered some 18-year-old seniors to vote. Lauren-Ashley and the rest of the Promise Corps team will reveal the winners any day now. Members like Lauren-Ashley are reasons why the Promise Corps program is a critical key component in college and career success within the Promise Zone Education Initiative.


– Lauren-Ashley Wood, College and Career Ambassador at Overbrook High School