‘Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Graduation Parade & Celebration’ salutes students for their accomplishments and Mayor announces college scholarship recipients.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter unofficially closed the chapter on a successful school year by celebrating the academic and community achievements of more than 1,500 graduates from nearly 50 local high schools in a graduation parade followed by a program today.
“I’m honored to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2015 at our 4th Annual Top of the Class celebration,” said Mayor Nutter. “Today, we will acknowledge more than 1,500 highly-motivated soon-to-be high school graduates, who will proudly inspire younger Philadelphia students to keep on track to achieve their own educational goals by wearing blue ‘I did it!’ t-shirts. Congratulations and we wish all of you continued success as you pursue higher education opportunities and careers!”
Mayor Nutter was joined by Lisa Nutter, President of Philadelphia Academies, Inc.; the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer Dr. Lori Shorr; Leana Cabral, Director of PhillyGoes2College; Sayeh Hormozi, Director of Graduation Coach Campaign; City Representative Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Dr. William R. Hite Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, as well as representatives of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, the event sponsor Wells Fargo,Avenue of the Arts, Inc., City Council and academic leaders across the city. They took part in an 18-block procession on Broad Street, starting at Carpenter Street in South Philadelphia. The fourth annual ‘graduation march’ was extended on Broad Street south, about 13 blocks, a departure from year’s past, and was followed by the finale – a program celebrating the college-bound graduates’ scholastic accomplishments at City Hall’s Dilworth Park.
“Last summer, we came together to celebrate the Taney Dragons with a parade for their athletic achievement, said the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer Dr. Shorr, adding: “It is fitting that we come together once again to celebrate the academic achievement of our city’s students. This will help to ensure our students that we appreciate their hard work and support their efforts in becoming the future leaders of this city.”
Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Graduation Celebration is designed to raise awareness about the City’s and Mayor’s Office of Education’s high school graduation goals and to highlight the academic success of local high school seniors. The students who participated are recent graduates of the School District of Philadelphia, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, private and charter schools citywide.
The senior students were from the top echelon of their graduating classes maintaining at least a B+ average. They showed their school spirit, participating in the Broad Street graduation procession — led by Mayor Nutter and West Philadelphia’s High School of the Future Drum Line, under the direction of Jesse Mell.
Participating in the parade with the High School of the Future’s Drum Team were: Academy at Palumbo Step Team, Martin Luther King High School Cheerleaders, Mastery Charter School (Thomas Campus) Cheerleaders, Franklin Learning Center Dance Team, Philadelphia High School For the Creative and Performing Arts Dance Team, Philadelphia 76ers Dance Team, Eagles Cheerleaders as well as mascots: the Phillie Phanatic, Swoop and Curby Bucket and Sunray, of the city’s Streets Department.
The enthusiastic students marked the occasion by sporting blue Class of 2015 ‘I DID IT’ t-shirts. They paraded north on Broad Street to cheers and support from onlookers, parents, mentors, educators who wore similar yellow “…AND I HELPED” t-shirts. Following the parade, the students, City officials and educators took their place at center stage outside City Hall in Dilworth Park. The students were awarded with a variety of prizes including tickets to a local professional sporting event for achieving academic excellence.
Mayor Nutter and education officials presented the Mayor’s Scholarships for Academic Excellence and Civic Engagement to four students: Huriye N. Duha Uyar (pronounced Who-ree-aye D. You-r) and Joella Kukwikila Bangala (Joella Gu-que-gee-la Bang-owla), of the Philadelphia High School for Girls in the city’s Olney section; William Amari, of Science Leadership Academy in Center City, and Jason Rodriguez, of Thomas Alva Edison High School in the city’s Juniata Park/Fairhill section.
Uyar, 18, of West Philadelphia, earned a $5,000 scholarship. She plans on attending UCLA to study bio-chemistry in the fall. She said she was inspired by her mother, Tulu Buber, who is a biologist at Johnson & Johnson. Bangala, Amari and Rodriquez each received a $1,000 scholarship. Bangala, 18, of Northeast Philadelphia, will study biological sciences at Drexel University. Rodriquez, 17, a North Philadelphia resident, will attend Rutgers Camden in the fall to pursue communications. Amari, 18, of Center City, will enter American University (in Washington, D.C.) to study journalism.
The scholarship recipients were selected based on an essay competition focusing on advice senior students would share with other students to help them achieve a high school diploma and further pursue their education. Rosemont College in Lower Merion Township
“Wells Fargo is proud to join the city in celebrating the achievements of its top graduating seniors,” said Greg Redden, Wells Fargo’s President for the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Region. “We are pleased to support this event and Philadelphia’s academic MVPs.”
Event corporate donors were Rita’s Water Ice, Wawa, Bed Bath & Beyond and Fresh Grocer. Through the mayor’s initiatives, the City is making strides towards the education goal of increasing high school and college graduation rates in Philadelphia. The mission 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 these areas. The graduation rate in the School District of Philadelphia and charter schools citywide has increased from 53 percent in 2007 to 65 percent this year.
Top of the Class: Mayor’s High School Parade & Graduation Celebration is a project of the Mayor, PhillyGoes2College Office, Graduation Coach Campaign, Mayor’s Office of Education and Office of the City Representative.
PhillyGoes2College provides information and referral services for college-bound students. The PhillyGoes2College Office is open Mondays through Fridays, from9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visitors can stop by City Hall (Room 115), call 215-686-0315 or visit www.PhillyGoes2College.org.
The Graduation Coach Campaign aims to strengthen pre-existing adult/youth relationships by creating and distributing resources focusing on supporting youth planning their educational futures. For more information, contact 215-686-2165, or visit www.phillygradcoach.org.