Philadelphia Futures’ Annual Graduation Celebration

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Over 100 first-generation-to-college scholars gathered to celebrate earning their high school diplomas and higher education degrees in record numbers.

One hundred percent of Philadelphia Futures’ high school graduates have been accepted to college. Fifty-one percent of those scholars are attending a Philadelphia Futures partner college and will receive $8.6 million in financial aid.

Close to 500 members of the Philadelphia Futures community gathered at the Convention Center on Wednesday, June 6, to celebrate the accomplishments of more than 100 scholars who are earning their high school diplomas and college degrees in record numbers.

The “Hats Off to You” award is presented for outstanding, long-term, and significant contributions to the mission of Philadelphia Futures. This year, Northeast High School was honored after demonstrating how one partnership and collaboration can help shape organizations, schools, and the city of Philadelphia. In addition, a “Special Recognition Award” was given to mentors, Robert Pyskadlo and Julie Restelli Pyskadlo for mirroring the exacting values of Philadelphia Futures and for their dedication and commitment to the three scholars they mentor – all of whom were among the 2018 graduating class.

During her welcoming speech, Executive Director Sara Woods spoke directly to the graduates saying, “Our ask to you is simple – come back, share your story, and stay involved with Philadelphia Futures. Your life and your accomplishments can serve as an example and a road map for what others can do with grit, persistence, and high expectations. If we all follow your lead, I am confident our world will be a better place.”

To carry out the theme for the year, “Build Your Future,” four Philadelphia Futures scholars spoke to what it meant to take this next step in their lives.

Sponsor-A-Scholar Class of 2014 and Princeton University graduate Joy Dartey told a story of her grandfather and the sacrifices he made so that she, her siblings, and her mother could travel to the United States from Ghana to pursue educational opportunities. She said, “”As we think of our next steps – as we prepare for college, pursue postgraduate studies, or join the workforce, we need to remember that we are not just called to do well but to do good wherever we are. And regardless of where we go, we are not to compromise aspects of our humanity to satisfy the desire for success. If the people who have invested in us along the way had done this, we probably would not be here. So let’s learn from what they have done, be bold, kind giants wherever we find ourselves and hold the doors of opportunity open in the spaces and in the communities that matter to us.”

It was an evening of reflection and celebration for the graduating scholars who are all building their futures. Ten graduating high school scholars received close to $94,500 in scholarship money – a 122% increase from last year – thanks to the extraordinary support of members of the Philadelphia Futures community, which included the Laurie J. Keeler Award, the Lisa Marie Thomas Memorial Scholarship, the Destined for Success Scholarship, the Dr. Willie W. Echewa Scholarship, the James W. and Joan M. Keebler Scholarship, the Marc/David Berman Scholarship, the Lincoln Financial Foundation Scholarship, the Kim Freitag Memorial Scholarship for Awesome Achievement, and the Haidie Anderson Scholarship.

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