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Throwback Spotlight – AmeriCorps Conference!

On March 14th, all of the Promise Corps CCA”s traveled down to the University of Pennsylvania to attend the 2019 AmeriCorps Conference. This was a memorable experience because the conference is not held every year, and even if it is, is not always held in Philadelphia. We were joined by over 800 other AmeriCorps members from across the city and the state, with some members travelling from as far as Erie. The conference kicked off with an opening ceremony in which several members, including Promise Corps’ very own Rodney Babb, had the opportunity to talk about what their service meant to them. There were several distinguished speakers, and Mayor Kenney even made an appearance. Two other Promise Corps members, Emani Smith and Jessie Klein, volunteered to help direct members to the next events, and support the speakers.

Members had the opportunity to attend a total of three different workshops, which covered a wide range of topics pertaining to service. The topics included: understanding how to approach issues regarding race and gender, effective communication skills, self-care, and how to navigate life after AmeriCorps. Two other CCA’s, Shakiera Harden and Drew Schaub, even led one of the workshops, which discussed how to foster positive team dynamics. These workshops provided a valuable opportunity for members to reflect on their service and think about ways that they could make the most of their year of service. It was also a special experience because it gave members a chance to interact with people from different programs. Everyone was able learn about various AmeriCorps programs, share ideas, and just get to know one another. It was invigorating to feel appreciation for our service, and to share that with each other. It was a great chance to reflect, take pride in our service, and reaffirm that the work we do truly matters.

 

Think Tank 2019

Congratulations are in order!

Earlier this month, Promise Corps hosted the 4th annual Think Tank event, where teams of students presented solutions to a challenge they consistently face in their community. Students are encouraged to create and present with a team of their peers and share in front of a panel of judges and general audience members. This year’s teams featured students from each of the high schools hosting Promise Corps teams: Overbrook High School, High School of the Future, Sayre High School and West Philadelphia High School.

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Regional Administrator of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Joseph DeFelice, kicked off the event with welcoming remarks and generous appreciation for the students leading the event that not only took time out of their day off to share their ideas but also stepped up to share their insightful ideas and perspectives.

Over the past four years, Think Tank presentations have focused on a wide array of topics, including local and national human trafficking, improved rec centers, water access and powerful programming for cancer patients. This year, unbeknownst to each other, every team presented on a topic related to education.

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Students shared solutions to challenges they face during, after and beyond their typical school day experiences. One team’s desire for healthier lunches included photographs of examples of their meals at school; audience members had to guess what type of food was being served. If you remember the popular meme going around last year of the black or blue dress – there was division over a photo of extremely under-cooked pizza and various suggestions on what it might be!

Several other teams presented their ideas for extracurricular activities and after school programming, highlighting a need for classwork and projects that reflect budgeting and lessons on financial planning. One team highlighted a significant need for class time dedicated to social skill building and support. A student shared, “We’re constantly told not to fight but we’re never told how to manage our anger or how to better resolve issues. I know there are better ways because fighting isn’t the answer, but I don’t know what the other way is.”

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Promise Corps would like to thank all of the students that presented their solutions and represented their high schools, and our panel of local professionals that provided feedback and comments to each team including: Eva Gladstein, Deputy Managing Director of Health and Human Services for the City of Philadelphia; Dan Schupsky, Outreach Specialist for West Philadelphia, Philadelphia Water Department; Rachel Viddy, Project Director, West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood, Drexel University; and Wes Somerville, Director of the LenFest Foundation.

Be on the lookout for the 5th anniversary of Think Tank next spring!

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Spring at OHS!

spring ohs 1On Friday, March 22nd, in partnership with High School of the Future, we took 30 of our students, including seniors and juniors, to visit East Stroudsburg University. While visiting, there were students who didn’t like the distance of the college, but there were also students who were ecstatic to be far from home. There were two seniors from Overbrook who were happy to visit their dream school, including one student who has been accepted into ESU! We also had two juniors who were ready to apply to ESU after the tour, because they were so blown away by the campus. Our juniors loved that this University is far enough from Philadelphia, but is also close enough to catch a bus home. All of the students who spring ohs 2attended this trip loved the dining hall food as well as the culture of the campus. While on tour, we even got a chance to meet the President of the University! Overall, our trip to ESU was a major success.

 

 

spring ohs 3Next up, Promise Corps welcomed Ms. Ariel Peterson, from Year UP, to OHS on Tuesday, March 26th. Our room was overwhelmed with senior students from Mr. Craighead’s history classes as well as Ms. Dickens’ art history classes. Throughout the presentation, students were educated on the amazing opportunities the Year Up program offers! Students were even given time to begin filling out applications for the program if they wished to do so. The Year Up program is a one-year, intensive training program that provides young adults, ages 18-24, hands-on skills development, coursework eligible for college credit with Peirce spring ohs 4College, corporate internships, and overall support. Students also earn an educational stipend while they are active in the program. Overall, the students were extremely pleased with Ms. Peterson’s presentation and were eager to begin the application process.

Lastly, Promise Corps took another college visit to Cabrini University, where we were lucky enough to run into our old supervisor, Kerry! Students were very pleased with their tour of Cabrini University, a small private school in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Along the tour, students caught a glimpse of several buildings at the University, such as the library, the rec center, and Cabrini’s mansion, a building previously owned by the Campbell’s Soup family! Students were even able to sit in on a biology class with Cabrini students and learn about the different resources available in the classroom. Overall, students enjoyed the university because of its small size and its proximity to home.

Currently, OHS students are busy preparing for their senior project presentations this month as well as their presentation for Think Tank, happening on Friday, April 12th!

 

Teacher Spotlight at Sayre High

At William L. Sayre High School, there are a variety of exceptional administrators and staff. One of these extraordinary educators is Dr. Andrew Schiera.

Dr. Schiera went to University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate education and majored in History, then went to graduate school for History as well. However, he later realized that he loved teaching, and went back for a Masters in Teaching Education. Before he came to Sayre, he worked at University City High School for three years where he taught Social Studies. When UCHS was recommended for closure and they lost by a 3 to 2 vote, Dr. Schiera was out out of a job. That summer, he taught at a bridge program called Leaders of Change College Bridge, which prompted Sayre students to talk about these teachers that pushed them to their limits, including Dr. Schiera and Ms. Jada Warfield.

Dr. Schiera has been with the Sayre family for three years since the fall of 2016. At Sayre, Dr. Schiera has an abundance of responsibilities, such as teaching AP Government, Psychology and a Foundation of Education course with Penn Undergrads, serving as the Roster Chairman, as well as teaching a course at UPenn.

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“Teaching at a University is different.” Dr. Schiera observed.  “I’m teaching future teachers. Not the same as being in a school, with teenagers who are excited about what they’ll do next, and it’s a different feeling. There is tension between what feels as though I’m making an impact with the skills I have, and the skills I want to learn. There is nothing like building a relationship with students and being able to connect it with their lives. In a perfect world, I would like to teach high schoolers in the morning, and future teachers in the afternoon. I would like to create a program like this to do it in a way where the university does not take over, letting teachers do it their way and use their opinions. Institutional factors in schools and work that keep them in separate worlds… PD school that tries to do it that way.. Out there somewhere.”

Even though he has so much on his plate already, he has thought about becoming a principal. When it was time to put in his application, he applied too late, and the applicant poll was full. He had to ask himself if he wanted to be a principal, and the answer was no.

“The needs to be able to be a principal in the Philadelphia School District, make me not envision myself in that role. Being a teacher is something special for me to leave. There was a brief flicker of a moment where I thought about being a principal. It was so easy for schools to be ran, and I appreciate the leadership here and my colleagues. It’s easy to listen to students and build from there. My goal is to keep doing that, and I see a renewed energy in those students. That’s something you lose if you leave. As Forest Gump said, That’s all I have to say about that.”

We appreciate all the hard work that Dr. Schiera puts into his classes and for his students. We love collaborating with him on class assignments, college trips and after school activities!! Thank you Dr. Schiera!!!

Senior Project Fair

On February 28th, seniors at High School of the Future presented their senior projects to teachers, staff, and other students. The seniors have been working on research papers since November and they finally got a chance to showcase their work. The topics ranged from gun violence and crime in Philadelphia to body image and eating disorders, as well as many others. The students were able to make a poster to present their work or present from PowerPoint slides. Each presentation was very unique and clearly demonstrated all of the hard work that students put in this year. The CCAs at Future had a great time listening to the projects and giving feedback to each senior.

Pictured above are two seniors who gave presentations on gun violence rates in Philadelphia. Both students incorporated racial profiling and police brutality into their presentations and gave statistics and examples that they found throughout their time doing research.

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Posing in front of her poster board, this senior presented on body image and researched how social media is correlated with poor body confidence in teenagers. We were so proud of all of the hard work that students put in this year!!

OHS is Ready for College!

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Overbrook High School Team took on not only one, but TWO college visits! CCA’s Rodney and Aliyah partnered with senior English teacher Ms. Ali on a visit to Penn State Brandywine while CCA Jessie partnered with Talent Search to visit West Chester University.

Some highlights from West Chester University:

Students began the tour at Lawrence Dining Hall, one of the many food options on campus, led by two seniors at WCU. While on tour, students caught a glimpse of Commonwealth Hall, one of the affiliated style dorm options. Students saw a model dorm and were able to ask questions about dorm room experiences.

 

 

Additionally, students were able to see numerous classroom buildings, such as Mitchell Hall, Anderson Hall, and the newly renovated business building that hosts classes for Business & Public Management. Along the tour, students were able to take pictures in front of West Chester’s famous Golden Ram statue!

 

 

The tour concluded with a stop at Sykes Student Union, where OHS students were able to engage with the Director of the Multicultural Center as well as a West Chester University Police Officer, and then participate in a Q & A. Students asked several questions about academics, campus life, and joining organizations such as Greek Life. Overall, students had a great day and were super excited about all West Chester University has to offer.

Some highlights from Penn State Brandywine:

Students were given a well-rounded information session on Penn State Brandywine as well as its 18 other campuses. An admissions representative, Ms. Kari discussed everything from sports to school size and transferring. Students were asked to think about their Penn State story if they were to attend any of the campuses.

OHS college 5The tour included the two new buildings on campus: a residence hall equipped to house 250 students and a larger dining hall which also houses the student activity center, the bookstore and the blue cafe. Students enjoyed a host of outdoor sights as well and began to snap photos of the refreshing greenery!

 

Overbrook has engaged with on-site volunteers as well, welcoming CCP’s representative Mr. Chris Lewis for both A and B days. Mr. Lewis spoke with seniors on a host of topics about CCP and all of its resources, FAFSA and scholarships including the scholarship app called Scholly!

Students left with the intent to learn more and apply to CCP, and also gained Mr. Chris’s contact information. They also took the time to voice their concerns about college and the application process. Mr. Chris will return to Overbrook in the near future in order to deliver on site placement tests for seniors who have already applied to CCP.OHS college 6

Overbrook students have also welcomed Mr. Ron Felder, the PHEAA representative for the entire city of Philadelphia, who gave a direct message and realistic talk on navigating the FAFSA application. Students asked well-thought out questions and were then able to apply for their FAFSA directly with Ron Felder on site. Many students expressed their gratitude left feeling like a weight had lifted from their shoulders!