PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett today joined officials from AT&T, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania (Netter Center), and the School District of Philadelphia to announce a $300,000 contribution to the Netter Center as part of AT&T Aspire.
The announcement was made at University City High School, one of two West Philadelphia high schools that works with the Netter Center to help West Philadelphia ninth graders elevate their academic performance and achieve on-time promotion to the next grade. The Academic Support & Enrichment Program, part of the Netter Center's University-Assisted Community Schools strategy, is dedicated to stemming the high school dropout crisis.
The Netter Center is one of 47 Aspire grant recipients nationwide that together shared more than $10 million under AT&T Aspire this year, one of the largest corporate commitments focused on helping more students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. AT&T announced an additional quarter-billion-dollar expansion to the program earlier this year, bringing the total commitment to $350 million since the program was launched in 2008.
With the support from AT&T, the Netter Center will expand upon its existing college and career programming at University City and Sayre High Schools to operate a University-Assisted Academic Support & Enrichment Program for ninth grade students. Over the 24-month program period, staff coordinators, along with university students serving as graduation coaches and tutors, will develop a support system for nearly 700 ninth graders to help them succeed academically; increase their chances of earning a diploma; and begin planning for post-secondary success.
"The Netter Center is doing great things to help students in West Philadelphia stay in school and achieve their dreams," said J. Michael Schweder, president AT&T Mid Atlantic. "Programs like this, combined with Mrs. Corbett's signature Opening Doors initiative, are essential to helping students succeed and to keeping Philadelphia – and our entire commonwealth – competitive."
Schweder added that through Aspire, AT&T has contributed $1,077,900 in Pennsylvania since 2008. Organizations that have benefited include the Netter Center, which received a grant in the first round of Aspire; Communities In Schools of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County; Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania; Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia's Children First Fund; and the United Way of York County, among others. In collaboration with Junior Achievement, students across Pennsylvania also have participated in job shadowing events at AT&T facilities in the state, giving students a chance to make the connection between school and the workplace.
Because a high school diploma is so essential to a promising future, Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett this year launched the Opening Doors initiative, a project that is aligned with the goals of AT&T Aspire.
"Completing high school is essential for Pennsylvania's children," Mrs. Corbett said. "Over a lifetime, high school dropouts earn $1 million less than those with a college degree and are more likely to end up in the justice system or to require public assistance. Nationally the economic cost of the dropout problem adds up to $300 billion a year. Together with organizations like the Netter Center and committed companies like AT&T, we can help open the doors to a brighter future for our children, our Commonwealth and our nation."
Aspire applicants were evaluated based on their accomplishments in serving students at risk of dropping out of high school and their ability to use data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work. After a rigorous and competitive process, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships was identified as making a real difference in their community by supporting and motivating traditionally underserved students to stay in school and prepare for the next step in life.
Associate Vice President of Penn and Director of the Netter Center Ira Harkavy said this program will build upon more than two decades of successful collaboration between Penn and West Philadelphia partners to create University-Assisted Community Schools.
"This collaboration has been recognized for its mobilization of significant resources that support students during the school day and after school. With the support of AT&T, we look forward to deepening our work with local partners to further improve the outcomes of youth at both Sayre and University City High Schools," Harkavy said.
Harkavy added that in 2011-12, the Student Success Center staff at University City High School mobilized 90 Penn and Drexel students as graduation coaches. This team helped 94 percent of the senior class graduate, 70 percent of whom had post-secondary plans, and secured over $740,000 in scholarship and grant awards. Over the last three years, the school's AP and Honors course participation increased by 66 percent across grade levels and subject content. In addition, average daily attendance rose from 71 percent in 2008-09 to 83 percent in 2011-12.
"We are grateful to AT&T for continuing to support our partnership with the Netter Center," said William Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. "The Netter Center and AT&T are making a significant difference at Sayre and University City High Schools. This is an important investment in the future of our students and Philadelphia."
Students involved in the program say the Netter Center program has a positive impact on their lives.
Glen Casey, a senior at University City High School, said: "Being able to work with the Student Success Center has been the most significant experience of my life. It has given me experiences working in a professional environment, learning about colleges, and thinking about the career I want to have. I've grown not just as a student but as a person too. I can honestly say that the SSC has been very important to me and I am glad that every year the program gets better and that more kids will have opportunities even earlier than I did."
Founded in 1992, the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships is Penn's primary vehicle for bringing to bear the broad range of human knowledge needed to solve the complex, comprehensive, and interconnected problems of the American city so that West Philadelphia (Penn's local geographic community), Philadelphia, the University itself and society benefit.
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