Providing a culture of success that focuses on developing students into leaders who are equipped with the key 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, self-empowerment and multicultural competence in order to excel academically and as community leaders is the motto for students attending Horace Howard Furness High School.
“As the new principal of Furness High School, my staff and I commitment has been to continue to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment focused on academic excellence and collaboration,” said principal Daniel Peou. “We want to make sure that we provide the best academic experience for all of our students. We not only want to prepare them for college, but we also want them to be successful in life.
“We support innovation and embrace a student-centered approach to problem-solving and personal empowerment,” Peou continued. “We challenge all of our students to put their best foot forward in everything that they do. They’re not just our students, but we’re a family.”
Furness offers its students a variety of AP courses including art history, biology, calculus AB, composition, U.S. history, foreign languages and physics, which the school has a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania. The school also offers students various activities and programs including BuildOn, GEAR UP, yearbook club, National Honor Society, debate team and student government.
“Furness is a good school,” said ninth-grader Amina Bibi. “The school offers different programs and activities for all of the students. The teachers at the school do a good job of helping you, especially if you need help in a class. You’re always learning something new in each of the classes. I’m really like going to this school.”
Other academic programs at Furness include hotel, restaurant, travel and tourism academy, Urban Education Academy, and English as a Second Language/Multicultural Academy. In In addition to the schools core curriculum and programs, Furness is known for being a diverse school. Of the 600 students, 48.9 percent are Asian, 29.9 percent African American, 12 percent Latino, and 2 percent are American Indian. There are 22 different languages spoken at the school.
“In addition to the classes, programs, and activities, what makes this school so unique is the diversity,” said tenth-grader Rosa Maria Tellez. “Everyone here comes from different background and cultures, so we are all learning from each other. It really is the ultimate learning experience. I really like going to Furness. The principal and teachers are great and they all want us to succeed.”
During the school’s spring break, Sophomore’s Isaiah Randolph and Derek Samoul Seang lived with a host family in Haiti for two weeks and experienced the simplicity and challenges of life in a developing nation without resources like running water or electricity.
The trip was through the BuildOn and Trek Knowledge programs. BuildOn is breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. BuildOn runs youth service programs that mobilize urban teens to change both their communities and the world through intensive local community service and by building schools in developing countries.
Every year, select students from BuildOn’s afterschool programs participate in Trek for Knowledge, where they help construct a school in a remote village. Students mix concrete, make bricks and form walls by hand alongside villagers. They also spend time every day on the worksite constructing the school, and also attend cultural workshops to help learn more about the people and the country they are working in.
“Building the school was hard work,” said Samoul Seang. “We would work for about three hours a day on the school itself. Because it was so hot there, we were told to drink a lot of water, so that we wouldn’t get sick. I was moving and picking up rocks, sometimes the rocks would actually cut through my gloves.
“We all gave it 100 percent. It wasn’t about us, it was really about the kids and that’s why we wanted to go. We never been through anything like that before, but in the end it was worth it, because we did it for the kids and the community.”
For Randolph, the trip wasn’t just about helping those in need in Haiti, but it was also about be thankful for the blessings in life.
“The people in Haiti didn’t have a lot, but they had enough,” Randolph said. “Seeing what they have to go through day in and out really made me appreciate everything that I have. I use to complain about not having this or that and their resources are limited and they didn’t complain at all.
“The Haiti trip really made me see the bigger picture and be appreciative for life and everything that I have. I went there to help them and in the end they helped me. I’m grateful, humbled, and appreciative for this experience. I will definitely do it again. I want to do it again.”
Walk into Sheryl Barreto's eighth-grade social studies class and see students hands raised and discussing various topics in history including the Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, and the role African-American soldiers played. As Berreto writes the answers on the board, students continue to talk about their thoughts on the lesson and how what happend in history then has impacted the country today.
“This class is one of my favorite classes; I really like learning about History,” said eighth-grader Thomas Mars. “The teacher really gives us various activities to really understand what we are learning. With this class, we don’t do an overview of historical events, we really learn everything that took place during that time period. The lessons are very detailed. I’m looking forward to what we will be learning next.”
With the motto “Anchored in Excellence,” Meehan continues to prepare students for the next phase of their academic career - high school. A two-year program, students who attend Meehan perform at high levels and are prepared academically and receive the ultimate learning experience through various programs.
“Meehan is a really good school,” said eighth-grader Heather Hanson. “The teachers do a really good job of helping us excel academically. If we need help with something, they are willing to help. The just don’t prepare us for school, but also for life. They incorporate life lessons into our school lessons everday. I couldn’t have gone to a better school.”
For eighth-grader Erica Graham, going to Meehan wasn’t as big of an adjustment that she thought it would be. This is Graham’s first year at the school.
“I was a little hesitant to come here because I wasn’t sure want to expect, but I’m glad that I did,” Graham said. “The teachers are really nice and do a good job of helping us succeed academically. The atmosphere is great and the school offer’s a lot of different programs. I think this school has helped prepare all of us for the next level. I’m really enjoying my school experience at Meehan.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Meehan offers its students a wide range of different programs including computers, robotics, chess, student council, and a art and music program.
“The school does a really good job of offering us different opportunities,” said eighth-grader Leslie Ayala. “Because of the different programs the school has, it really gives us a chance to find out what we like to do. I personally like the art and music program. I play the cello in orchestra. When it comes to art, it’s a good way for me to express myself. I think that everyone has a creative side of them and in art I get to display mines. I’m really into the arts; it’s a really good program. I really like everything this school has to offer.”
The school also has various sports programs including basketball, soccer, baseball, and track field.
Eighth-grader Nassir Coleman takes full advantage of his experience at Meehan.
“My experience at the school has been good,” Coleman said. “When I came here I wanted to make sure that I took full advantage of my expeience while I was here. I do that, by participating in sports at the school. I play basketball. I also use to run track, but I had to stop. For other students who are looking to go here you won’t be disappointed. It’s a good school and it will help you grow personally and academically.”
Eighth-grader Maxwell Pena also participates in the sports program at Meehan. He plays soccer.
“There are so many programs and activities to do at this school that it would really be hard to find something you don’t enjoy doing,” Pena said. “Something that I like doing at the school is playing soccer. It’s a really fun sport to play, competitive, and it keeps me active. Meehan is a good school. It’s really up to us to take full advantage of everything the school has to offer. If students do participate in the programs at the school, they won’t be disappointed.”
The community and parents at Meehan also play a vital role with the school. Parents of the school are involved with home and school, school advisory council, and after-school and classroom volunteering.
“Meehan is the ultimate learning experience,” said eighth-grader Beverly Nwani. “We’re constantly learning, whether it’s in the classroom or through the programs the school has. We all want to succeed academically, but this school has helped all of grow personally. Because of Meehan, we will all be ready to enter high school. We will be able to embrace our full high school academic experience, because of the things we learned at this school. This school has helped prepare us for our future, and that is a lesson that none of us will ever forget.”
The success of Austin Meehan Middle School does not just rely on the students academic excellence and personal growth. The teachers, parents, staff and faculty at the school also plays a pivotal role by providing students with endless opportunities that they might not receive anywhere else.
“The reason why this school is so successful is because it’s truly a collective effort between the students, teachers, parents and staff,” said principal Mary Jackson. “My teachers and staff have come up with wonderful ideas to ensure that our students receive the best education. Nobody runs the building by itself. If I didn’t have the support of everyone, we would not be able to offer our students as many programs as we do.”
One new program at the school is the coffee shop. The program is geared toward the autistic students at Meehan and is spearhead by autistic teacher Heather Callahan. Students who participate in the program sells coffee and treats to students, faculty, parents and staff.
“I started the coffee shop so that my kids can get vocational, educational and social skills in a real world setting,” Callahan said. “My students naturally isolate themselves because of the communication barrier. I figured the best way to break the barrier was to expose them to social situations they were typically uncomfortable with. I have noticed a tremendous progression in their ability to speak appropriately with unfamiliar adults by making eye contact, initiating and reciprocating conversation, tone and using language functionally.
“They have progressed with money handling skills. This is a hands on approach to learning the value of money, how to count money and how to make change. I am so proud of my students and am grateful for all of the staff that have made a point to visit the coffee shop and give my students their moments to feel included and important.”
Conflict resolution specialist Tonya L. Claxton has helped the track program grow at the school. This is her first year being the coach at the school. In previous years, she was a volunteer for the program.
“I know that children need an outlet outside of school and home,” Claxton said. “With running, the motivation you have to succeed comes from within. I tell my runners that track is not just middle school, it can take you to high school, college, and the Olympics. We have a lot of students who are participating in the program. They work hard, enjoy it, and is very dedicated at it. Everyone needs some kind of outlet in their life and for many of the kids at the school, track is that outlet for them.”
Assistant principal Leroy Baker Jr.. provides a support system for students who parents are incarcerated.
“This is the first year that Mr. Baker has been a part of the school, but the idea’s and concept that he has brought to this school is truly unique and inspiring,” said Jackson. “One issue that is overlooked at a lot of schools, are kids who are dealing with parents that are incarcerated. For those students, that is the main reason why they act out.
“Mr. Baker is that support system for them. He talks to the kids and they trust him. He also provides them with resources. He really has a connection with the kids and help them get through their problems. It’s truly an honor to have it at the school.”
Many of the teachers and staff at the school are continuing to find new ways to start new programs, as well as improve on programs that are already in place. Through the various programs, students as Meehan not only get academic lessons, but also life lessons.
“What we are doing is really nothing new, but we are providing support and opportunities to our students in a different way,” said assistant principal John Austerberry. “It’s obvious that academics is our main goal at the school, but that is not where our job ends. We want to see our students succeed academically, but also grow personally.
“We are doing everything that we can to ensure our students do just that, whether it’s providing them with personal support or helping them find their passion. Our mission is not done until we help all of our students achieve their dream.”
A true gem in the Philadelphia School District, Samuel Powel Elementary continues to raise the level of student achievement by encouraging children’s natural curiosity and channeling it into exploration and inquiry. Students who go to Powel not only receive a quality learning experience, but they also learn at a early age what it takes to succeed.
“Powel is a really good school,” said fourth-grader Nasira Gaskin. “The teachers really do a good job of teaching us; they really make learning fun. Since I’ve been here I’ve learned so much. My favorite subject right now is science. One of the things I really liked learning in science was electricity. Science also has a lot to do with math. I’m really enjoying my time at this school.”
Powel is a kindergarten to fourth -grade school in Powelton Village, in the heart of University City. Powel’s mission is to provide a rigorous and supportive academic environment that fosters intellectual growth, creativity and personal responsibility.
“Our goal has always been to have our students achieve,” said principal Kimberley Ellerbee. “We offer our students a variety of programs that not only helps our students say active, but it also allows them to figure out what they like to do at a very young age.
“Its truly a collective effort between students, parents, the community, teachers and staff,” she continued. “Because we are all on one accord, it make’s it easier for us to be able to provide our students with the best education. The start of success starts here and we’re making sure we are doing everything to help them grow academically and personally.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Powel offers its students various extra-curricular activities including African dance, chess club, drama, gardening club, computer club, scrapple club, junior coaches, track, basketball, arts and crafts and Yearbook.
“One of things that I really like about my school is that everyone really get along,” said Aasiyah Craft-Williams. “We don’t have bullying here, so we don’t have to worry about anything like that when we come to school. Everyone here is so nice and wants to help each other.
“The school also has a lot of different programs,” Craft-Williams said. “I like jumping rope and playing kickball. Both of them I like because I’m not only having fun while doing it, but I’m also exercising. Being active is a huge part of the school, so it’s cool to know that your being active just by doing something that you like to do.”
Asia Hill also like the different programs at Powel. Hill wants to basketball player when she gets older.
“I think the different programs is what really makes are school so unique,” Hill said. “We are given a chance to try different things through the programs. For some of us, it allows us to really participate in something we love to do.
“I really like playing basketball. My grandpop has really been helping me practice and grow as a player. I’ve learned so much from him. By practicing and participate in the sport now, it will help me become a better player when I get older. I will reach my goal of becoming a future basketball player.”
Some points of pride at the school include selected as one of ten schools in the city to receive the federal I3 grant to support best practices in literacy (2011), first place Chess Team (2012), and first place Track and Field Relay Team (Penn Relays) (2012).
Powel has partnerships with Drexel University, Children’s Literacy Initiative, and Playworks.
The school also has several identified model literacy classrooms. The community and parents also play a vital role with the school. Parents of the school are involved with home and school, school advisory council, and after-school and classroom volunteering.
“The teachers that I have make every subject interesting and fun, so it’s kind of hard to not like something at this school,” said Lamirah Lowery. “If I haven’t learned something from my teachers, I’ve learned something from other students. Powel is a great school and I’m really happy that I go here. It’s really nothing like it. We all push each other. I’m looking forward to learning more this school year.”
Ranked among the top five schools in Philadelphia and the second-oldest all-girls public school in the country, Philadelphia High School for Girls continues to prepare its young ladies for the next level academically by providing a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum
“The rigorous course work, the continual staff support, and the school spirit and traditions assist in the preparation for each of our young women,” said Principal Parthenia A. Moore. “Their hard work and efforts will guarantee their ability to take positions of leadership in the areas of politics, education, law, business, medicine, entrepreneurialism or any career they choose just as their Girls High sisters have done in the past.
“It will only be through our continued partnership that we will guarantee that our young women are afforded every opportunity as they use their potential to become the models for the next generation of leaders.”
Girls High was Recognized at Silver Level of Excellence by U.S. News & World Report (2012); and has made AYP continuously since 2002.
“For me going to Girls High is truly about achieving your dream,” said senior Priscilla Acquaah. “I came here (to the United States) when I was seven-years-old. My mother wanted me to come to the U.S. because she thought I would receive a better education than in Ghana.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been working really hard to make my family proud and achieve my dreams. I got accepted into Villanova and my major will be pre-med in the fall. I want to be pediatrician because I love working with kids. Girls High really prepared me for my future. I really enjoyed my time here with my sisters. I’m going to miss Girls High, but I’m looking forward to using what I learned here and applying it to my future.”
Some other points of pride at Girls High include various clubs, activities, and organizations; student government and athletic association; alumnae association; scholarship and awards program; partnerships with LaSalle, Temple, Drexel, Moore College of Art, University of Pennsylvania, and Hanban Asia Society.
The school has a high college acceptance rate, many students attend top U.S. universities. Twelve current students at the school has already been accepted to Spelman College. Girls High also offers dual enrollment, internships, International Baccalaureate Program and expanding number of AP courses. The school also has active chapters in National Honor Societies in academics including foreign language, mathematics, and science.
Art is a popular program at Girls High. The school offers classes in ceramics, AP Art History, and AP studio Art/Visual Art. Joseph Marchetti teaches the art classes.
“I want my students to grow,” Marchetti said. “We call it humanities, because they’re the courses in schools that bring humanity to education. It teaches history and value, but it also teaches a child’s potential. When they see that their capable of creating an object of art that they didn’t know they can do you’ve changed that child’s world.
“You’ve opened a doorway to something that you can never take back. In certain classes, you’re 1 of 33, in art you’re 1 of 1 in a class of 33. When you see a student succeed in something they thought they could not do, it gives them the confidence to succeed academically and personally.”
For senior Nicole Morris, attending Girls High not only allows her to grow artistically, but she is also succeeding academically. Morris will be attending Moore College of Art and Design in the Fall. Her major will be Fine Art 2D with a minor in business.
“I’ve been drawing all my life and it’s something that I enjoy doing,” Morris said. “It’s something I’m more comfortable doing. Mr. Marchetti has helped me tremendously because he has pushed me creatively.
“I’ve learned to go with what I feel and how to create on my own. Right now, I’m creating my portfolio, so that has been exciting. Going to Girls High has not only help me improve my skills, but it really did help me prepare for college and my future.”
Senior Somolly Sam currently has some of artwork profiled at the school. Sam’s drawings are from her classroom courses and from the courses she took at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
“What I love about the program here, is that Mr. Marchetti gives you the freedom to draw,” Sam said. “We just pick which angle we want to draw and then we pick the medium in which we want to draw in. I do want to have a career in art. I plan on going to college and majoring in Graphic Design.
“Being a part of Girls High and participating in the art program has taught me many things. I don’t think I would be as successful as I am academically if I went to another school. Everyone here pushes each other to achieve excellence. We all want to make a difference in the world. We’re one of kind, there’s truly no school like Philadelphia High School for Girls.”