[The following article appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune on February 14, 2017. It is reproduced here with permission of The Philadelphia Tribune.]
Partnership boosts career pathways at South Philly High
Samaria Bailey Tribune Correspondent, The Philadelphia Tribune.
Feb 14, 2017
Toan Vong sits at a computer in class at Southern High.
South Philadelphia High School is preparing students to be entrepreneurs, skilled union workers and other professions that will make them competitive in the 21st century with its extensive Career and Technical Education program. Five years ago, the school inherited the tech courses, teachers and students from Bok Technical High School after it closed down.
Now, in a new partnership with the City of Philadelphia’s Community Schools program, South Philadelphia High at 2101 S. Broad St. is poised to boost its impact, providing extra support to students and the community in which they live.
“My push is for our school to be student-led and student-focused — what programs, what courses do they want?” said Principal Kimlime Chek-Taylor. “This is something we are building with our students to be safe, to have school pride and to want to come to school.”
South Philadelphia High offers engineering, health-related technology, graphic design, early childhood education and business administration tracks for students to learn practical skills and earn certifications that can be used to gain employment directly out of high school, or college credit.
Brandon Mendez, a senior and the battalion commander for the school’s Army ROTC, studies engineering and plans to apply for a finishing trade program with the District Council 21 union upon graduation.
“I’m certified in scaffolding and first aid and I’m getting certified in AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design) 2-D,” he said. “It makes me feel good because colleges look for well-rounded people and so do employers.” Mendez said he is interested in the glazing profession because it’s a hands-on job that changes up and having that variety on different days is what attracted him to the skill.
Tenth-grader Zaire Jones studies business administration and describes his experience in the academy as eye-opening. “You get to learn more about business, how to build a website and you learn how to treat people in different situations,” he said. “It shows me how a business really is. It’s harder than what it seems. It takes a lot of effort and hard work.”
Du Hung, an 11th grader, who also studies business administration, agreed.
“They teach me how to talk with customers and how to solve problems,” she said. “I know a lot of things I didn’t know before.” Hung added that she anticipates this knowledge will further her plan to be a hotel manager.
South Philadelphia High makes its programs more powerful by supplementing them with opportunities to engage with professionals, potential employers and unions.
Christina DeAngelo, business administration instructor, is the adviser for the school’s award-winning Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Club. She has set up several partnerships, including one with Aramark, who recently provided a customer service training program, and the Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania program, which connects students with professionals.
A restaurateur was the most recent visitor with this program and according to Jones, he made a solid impact.
“He told me how to run a business properly, [about] taking risks and [making] hard choices,” said Jones. “He gave me tips and opened my mind up.”
Engineering instructor John Evans said District Council 21 offers training programs to juniors and seniors for dry walling, glazing and residential and commercial painting, Through the Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentoring program, students can work on actual projects with Center City engineering firms from October to May. Evans said one recent project students worked on through ACE is the new extension for the Franklin Learning Institute.
“They are being set up for opportunities with jobs after graduation,” said Evans, adding that the internships with the city’s streets department and SEPTA are also available to students.
To fully realize the potential of the programs, however, Chek-Taylor said the school is working to address obstacles that could prevent students from maximizing their experience.
“We work hand-in-hand to fight all barriers. What is it that they need? Clothes? food? They won’t function if they don’t have a place to go at 3 [p.m.],” she said. “We have partners that support us with meeting students’ needs. CityLife Church has their services here on Sunday. They donated 22 bags of clothes. The Future Project supports with mentoring.”
My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative of the Obama administration, is also a main support and connects the school’s educators with chronically tardy and absent students for mentoring. Other support available at the school are: the Communities in Schools ELECT program, which helps teen mothers; a credit recovery program; and a host of social services and health agencies. Providing support for arts programs is the Philadelphia Dance Foundation and the Curtis Institute, which sends in art teachers to help with performances.
For extracurricular activities, the school offers several sports teams, a choir and orchestra and scholarly clubs such as the National Honor Society and the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college readiness program.
As one of the city’s Community Schools, South Philadelphia High is able to maintain and tap into such resources with a Community School coordinator who oversees partners, programs and providers that want to work with kids and parents.
Janelle Harper, Community School coordinator, said she is planning to bring in resources that the community at-large can take advantage of, including Realtor training programs and child care courses.
“I’m constantly every day building relationships with people in the community,” she said. “We try to support the whole student. South Philadelphia is more than what has been portrayed in the media. It’s a positive place.”