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Paul Robeson High School for Human Services cultivates high achievers

June 5, 2018 GMT

Offering an experience that connects students to the community, challenges them in academics, and prepares them for their future is what students find most appealing about Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, 4125 Ludlow St.

“Growing up, I was never the kind of person that liked big environments or classes, so what drew me initially to Robeson was the small atmosphere and the family-like environment,” said freshmen Micah McCrea. “This school provides you with so many opportunities by preparing you for your future. My experience this year has been really good.”

Named after American singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson, the school is one of only eight high schools in the nation to offer studies in human services.

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“My experience at Robeson has been great during my first year,” said freshman Keenan Chapman. “The environment at this school is definitely more family friendly. The teachers care a lot about the students not just in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. I can tell already that this school will definitely prepare me for my future.”

One of Robeson’s main partners at the school is the Philadelphia Education Fund. Through the support and programming of PEF, Robeson has raised its graduation rate to a four-year average of 95 percent.

PEF also supports Robeson with its reverse graduation ceremony with the school’s freshman class. During the ceremony, ninth graders commit themselves to their own education and pledge to graduate within four years. Hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Nutter Center for Community partnerships, this year’s ceremony took place on June 1.

“We used to be one of the schools that had the college access program under PEF,” said principle Richard Gordon. “Through that program, we also had a college access coordinator in the building. When the grant came up for renewal for the college access program, there were six schools that were a part of program. Out of the six schools, five of the schools were eligible to move forward with the next phase of the grant.

“Robeson was not eligible to move forward because we were able to increase the graduation rate, increase the number of students matriculating, and increased our academic data,” he added. “As a result, the federal government denied Robeson. However, PEF still made the determination to continue to be partners with us even without a college access program.

“Through this partnership, PEF is still able to bring different resources our way. They are not only supporting our seniors, but they also supporting our freshman with the reverse graduation. As a result of this partnerships, our students will not only have the opportunity to participate in other programs, but it will also help them transition into the next phase.”

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During the Tribune’s Learning Key visit last month, seniors at Robeson were learning about The Last Dollar Scholarship, a need-based “gap-filling” award.

The scholarship, which is administered by the PEF and Philadelphia Scholars, is awarded when a family’s expected family contribution and financial aid package total are less than the cost of attendance, resulting in an unmet financial need. Students who qualify can receive a scholarship up to $5,000.

“After the students receive their financial aid after filling out their FASFA, The Last Dollar Scholarship will fill the gap of up to $5,000 that they owe if the students qualify,” said counselor Kimberly Lent. “The scholarship is renewable every year. Many of our students would not have taken out loans of $5,000, so we’re really lucky that we have a representative that comes in to Robeson every year and explain the Last Dollar Scholarship to our students.

“During that process, we sit down with the students, go through the paperwork, and upload all of the forms,” she added. “We walk the students through the process to make sure they’re doing everything by the book and that it’s accurate. It’s a wonderful scholarship and a lot of our students have benefited from this particular scholarship throughout the years.”

Senior Kady Meite said she appreciated Robeson bringing in a representative from Philadelphia Scholars to talk to her class about financial aid.

“I think learning about this scholarship at Robeson is very important because a lot of people don’t think about college expenses,” Meite said. “A lot of students think you apply for college and that’s just it, but there is so much to learn and prepare for before you go to college and financial aid is a huge part of that.

“Once I graduate from Robeson, I’m going to West Chester University,” she added. “I originally applied to West Chester for business, but I’m leaning more toward the communication side now. The Last Dollar Scholarship would help me out a lot because the maximum is $5,000 and and my cash gap is exactly $4,000 plus change. With this scholarship, I will be able to go college without worrying about financial aid.”