Mayor Nutter Gives High Marks To ‘Class of 2012’ ‘

Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Graduation Celebration’ salutes students for their accomplishments and academic leaders announce scholarship recipient.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter unofficially closed the books on the school year by celebrating the achievements of  nearly 1,000 high school graduates from more than 80 local schools today in Center City.

“Today, we celebrate Philadelphia’s top of the class representing the best and brightest high school graduates,” said Mayor Nutter. “As highly motivated and accomplished college-bound students, they serve as outstanding role models for young people in our City. We must come together and commit ourselves to improving educational and career opportunities for our students and to support initiatives that encourage and empower them.  I am proud to be able to honor such outstanding students for their academic and civic accomplishments.”

Mayor Nutter was joined by Chief Education Officer Dr. Lori Shorr; Barbara Mattleman, Director, PhillyGoes2College/Mayor’s Office of Education; Catie Wolfgang, Chief Service Officer of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement, City Councilmembers Janie Blackwell, David Oh and William Greenlee — as well as academic leaders across the city in a four-block procession on Broad Street, starting at Pine. The ‘graduation march’ was followed by the finale – a program celebrating the college-bound graduates’ achievements in the City Hall Courtyard.

“Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Graduation Celebration” is designed to raise awareness about the City and Mayor’s Office of Education’s high school graduation goals and to highlight the academic success of local high school seniors. Educational leaders described high school graduation as a “pathway to a better quality of life.”

Senior students with at least a B+ average participated in the Broad Street graduation procession — led by Mayor Nutter and the Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts and West Philadelphia’s School of the Future drum lines, under the direction of Jesse Mell. Following the celebration down Broad Street, they took their place at center stage in the City Hall Courtyard, representing area public, private, parochial and charter schools. To mark the occasion, the participants sported blue Class of 2012 ‘I DID IT’ t-shirts and were treated to refreshments.

Education officials presented the Mayor’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence and Civic Engagement to Maura Quirk, of Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in North Philadelphia. Quirk earned a $5,000 scholarship based on an essay competition focusing on her outstanding community service.  At the program, Maura read an excerpt from her winning entry while accompanied by her principal, Sister Kathleen Klarich. Maura will be attending St. Leo University in Florida this fall.

In addition, four runner-up essay participants received domestic tickets on Southwest Airlines.  The students were: Brianna Bennett, George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia; Lisa Cheung, Academy at Palumbo in South Philadelphia; Loren Braxton, of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in North Philadelphia, and Bach Tong, of Science Leadership Academy in Center City. Brianna Bennett will attend Kutztown University in Berks County; Lisa Cheung plans on going to the University of Pennsylvania; Loren Braxton will be attending North Carolina State University and Bach Tong is headed to Deep Springs College in California.

Four high school teachers were recognized for excellence and also received airfare on Southwest Airlines. The teachers were Jim O’Brien, an English teacher at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in North Philadelphia; Jennie Procherenko Stradelberger, a special education teacher at New Foundations Charter School in Northeast Philadelphia; Richard Leek, a teacher of history, government and world religions at Girard College in North Philadelphia, and Wilma Stephenson, a culinary arts teacher at Frankford High School in Northeast Philadelphia.

About 800 students were presented tickets to the Camden River Sharks minor league baseball team in New Jersey as part of the Mayor’s VIP program, which encourages academic achievement among students (with a B+ average or higher) in Philadelphia schools.

Through the mayor’s initiatives, the City is making strides towards the education goal of increasing high school and college graduation rates in the city. Specifically, the aim is to make Philadelphia “a City of College Graduates.” The goal is to boost the graduation rate to 80 percent by 2015, and to double the number of residents with a four-year college degree (from 18 percent to 36 percent) by 2018. Steady progress has been made in this area and today’s event serves as a celebration of this early success, said the City’s Chief Education Officer Dr. Lori Shorr.

‘Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Graduation Celebration’ is a project of the Mayor, PhillyGoes2College Office /Mayor’s Office of Education and the Office of the City Representative. PhillyGoes2College provides information and referral services for college-bound students. The PhillyGoes2College Office is open Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visitors can stop by City Hall (Room 115), or call 215-686-0315, or visit www.PhillyGoes2College.com.

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