As you walk through the hallways of Warren G. Harding Middle School and take a look around the classrooms you’ll begin to notice a theme — hard working students, and a dedicated community of faculty, staff, administration and parents, all striving for excellence.
“Our goal at Harding has always been to give the students the best educational experience that they can receive,” said principal Michael J. Calderone. “Our teachers do a great job of working together to change the students lives. They motivate them to do more than what there are expected and they inspire the students to become better.
“It’s a true partnership between the school, families, and the students, and I believe that’s why the school has been so successful. We want to continue to make significant gains in academics and the programs we offer here in order to guarantee success for our students in the future.”
The mission of Harding is to have students learn and achieve at high levels while preparing them for a successful transition into young adulthood.
“Harding is a good school,” said sixth-grader Jayda Alexander. “The school really strives to prepare us for the next level, which is high school. The school also offers a variety of programs. Every one here really want to see us succeed and they do so by bringing out the best in us academically and personally. I really like attending this school.”
In February, the Cartoon Network and U.S. Senator Bob Casey joined forces to launch the next phase of its Stop Bullying: Speak Up movement — a national flag-raising campaign.
Along with Senator Casey, Level Up stars Connor Del Rio and Aimee Carrero and Cartoon Network President and COO Stuart Snyder joined the students and faculty of Harding to raise the first of more than 2,000 Stop Bullying flags.
Since 2010, Cartoon Network's anti-bullying campaign has empowered kids and shed light on the effects of bullying through Facebook, documentaries, and television PSAs.
“Bullying is something that a lot of students across the country is dealing with everyday,” said eighth-grader Tatiana Vargas. “I think what makes thinks campaign so good is that now students and adults are saying this is no longer acceptable. It was inspiring to see everyone come together at Harding for such a good cause. Hopefully other students in Philadelphia and across the country will follow our lead and stand up and speak out about bullying.”
Harding is an AVID Certified School-special program that stresses organizational skills and prepares students for college. AVID also focuses on writing, reading, inquiry, and collaboration. Every student that is accepted into the program keeps a notebook binder. The binder helps students get organized in all of their subjects. Harding started a school-wide implementation of AVID strategies this school year.
“Being a part of AVID has really help me academically,” said eighth-grader Torre Reid. “I needed that extra push to succeed, because I was slacking in some areas. AVID has helped me see potential in myself and want to be better academically because I want to go to a good high school and go to college. I realize that what I do now is not only preparing for academic excellence at an higher level, but it’s also preparing me for my future.”
For seventh-grader Raina Mills, participating in AVID is not just about preparing students for college, but the program also helps with organization skills.
“Organization is the key to a lot of students success,” Mills said. “When I know where everything is, it makes it easier to learn my lessons. As a student, you never really realize the importance of organization when your going to school, but once you start seeing the academic results from it, you definitely want to keep it up.”
Harding is also an ArtZone Hub School. The school provides Arts Programming that includes an annual musical, Def Poetry team, and instrumental music. The school also has a State of the Art Information Media Center.
Some points of pride at Harding include the AVID Certified School 2012; Rose Lindenbaum Teacher of the Year Award Winner: 2012; Arts Rising ArtZone Hub School 2010-Current; and Accredited National Junior Honor Society and Student Council since 2009.
“This school has so many different programs,” said seventh-grader Jaqueline Hoffman. “As far as academics, the course load can be challenging, but that’s not a bad thing because they are preparing us for high school. You definitely have to be on your game while here because you don’t want to get behind.
“I think the AVID program really helps us making that adjustment and learn how to be prepared and organized without being overwhelmed. I’ve learned so many things while I’ve been here. There have always been a lot of misconceptions about this school, but we’re proving everyone wrong. We want to succeed and all of our future’s are looking bright.”
Known as one of the top-notch elementary schools in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, Overbrook Elementary continues to provide students with a solid elementary education as the basis for future learning and for model citizenship in the 21st century.
“This is my first year at the school and I love it,” said fourth-grader Jasmine Vega. “The teachers are real nice and there are so many different programs that people can participate in. I do a lot of projects in my classes that help me learn about different things. I’m looking forward to all the other things I will learn this school year.”
With technology based programs, community resources, and high academic standards, the school goal is to prepare students at an early age for achieving in all aspects of their life.
“We’ve always been the school in the heart of the community,” said principal Michelle Hayes-Flores. “What makes us so successful over the years is our excellent staff, are various programs, and our high standards of academic excellence. Our students come first. We’re not just preparing them for their future, but we want them to be successful in all aspects of their life.”
Students at Overbrook use technology to enhance their learning. Students participate in digital story telling, blogging, and podcasting.
“When the school re-opened in 1996, there was no technology at the school,” said computer teacher Rita Sorrentino. “Over the years, we’ve made sure to incorporate technology in all aspects of their learning, whether its through their school work, activities, or having the children go to the computer lab as a scheduled class.
“We are constantly looking at what we have and how we can improve. We want our students to realize that learning is anywhere and anytime. Learning is continuous, especially in the world of technology. Students tap into their creativity through blogging and the podcast. If they record something they don’t like, they immediately know how they can make their project better. We’re teaching our students that no matter what your age, you can make an positive imprint on the world.”
For fourth-grader Moussa Gaye, going to a school that is technology based has helped him learn in different way.
“In addition to academics, I think technology is the ultimate learning experience at Overbrook, because your learning things at a different pace and on a broader level,’ Gaye said. “Since I’ve been at the school, I’ve learned how to do PowerPoint, use bookmarks on the computer, how to do research on the Web, and write documents. All of things will help me when I go to on to middle school, high school, and college. What I’m learning now, I will use the rest of my life.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Overbrook has various programs and activities for the students. A new program, "Families and School Together," is held on Thursday evenings at Overbrook. The program aims to improve: child behavior problems, family cohesion, family management skills, and increase involvement of parents with their children's schools.
Some other points of pride at Overbrook is the Principal's Club, Light of Elmwood Lodge Partnership
Spring Concert (Vocal and Strings), Philadelphia Reads Tutors, First in Math Online Program (Grades 1-5)
Student Council, Nutrition Program, Early Childhood Program, 100 Book Challenge Reading Incentive Program, Reading Olympics, "Boost" After school Program, and the Ruth Hayre Scholarship Fundraiser.
“What makes our school different, is all of the programs that the school offers,” said fifth-grader Preeya Goodman. “My favorite subjects are math and reading. This school has an online math program called First in Math. The school also has different reading programs, which is great for me because I love to read. Learning at Overbrook is a lot of fun, I always look forward to my classes.”
Another student who likes the reading programs at Overbrook is fifth-grader Donasia Cameron.
“I participate in the Reading Olympics at Overbrook and I love it,” Cameron said. “You really have to push yourself and read as many books as you can before the challenge. So far, I’ve read eight books and I have to read ten by May.
“Reading is something that I always liked to do. It’s a good way to expand your mind and learn about so many different things. Overbrook is a really good school. The teachers are really helpful and everyone wants to see you succeed. Going here is the ultimate learning experience. We’re like a family here.”
Roxborough High School continues to provide students with rigorous academic programs as well as prepare students for post-secondary studies, careers and opportunities through its CTE programs.
The school’s climate cultivates independent thought, critical thinking, and moral character, empowering students to meet the challenges of the modern global society.
“Our goal at Roxborough is to establish a climate and culture that is conducive to learning,” said principal Stephen Brandt. “Academics is the center point of everything that we do at the school. With that, we wanted to adopt a strong college readiness culture that promotes our student’s awareness and applications to college and their success while they are there.
“Our CTE programs like web design, business, and cinematography have been extremely successful here. We want to continue to build on that success in the future by eventually adding biotech, law and government, engineering, and PR and marketing. We just want to create various opportunities for our students, so that when they do go to college they will already have experience in the field that they desire. We want to see our students succeed.”
Roxborough offers their students various AP courses including Art History, Biology, Chemistry, English, Environmental Science, Government and Politics, Psychology, Statistics, and United States History.
Other points of pride at the school include the Communications Academy, which placed in all 6 categories at the citywide computer fair; CTE programs supported by Philadelphia Academies Inc.; member of the Philadelphia Post-secondary Success Program Initiative with an AVID/GEAR UP Program as well as two College Access Centers.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Roxborough is that the school really has a lot of diverse programs,” said junior Marqui Kelly. “Web design and cinematography are just a few programs that are here at the school. I’ve been a part of the cinematography program for two years.
“Everything is top notch here. I’m definitely interested in going to college for communications mass media. Principal Brandt has really done a good job here; he’s helped me out a lot. All of the students here really appreciate everything he does for us. Roxborough is a good school that is preparing us for our future.”
The cinematography program is a three-year program. Students learn everything about video production. Cinematography teacher Derek Stevenson has been teaching the program for three years. Under his direction, his students won first place for Best Produced Film at the Greenfield Youth Film Festival in 2012. The regional festival is a designed for high school students. Roxborough is one of three public high schools in the city to participate in the festival.
“My students are currently working on their projects for this year’s film festival,” Stevenson said. “I think last year was a good experience for them and their hard work definitely paid off; I’m proud of them. I often assign the projects to the students, but they have the liberty to choose what exactly they want to talk about. I think if I just gave them a topic, they won’t be as passionate about it.
“I want the students who are passionate about film-making to get a foundation in film and video-making. I had seniors in the past go on to major in communications. They’ve become extremely successful. For my students who do not want to go into this direction, I just want them to get the sense of the real world by using their creativity. I want to teach all my students about life, but most importantly I want to see them all succeed, no matter what they do.”
For eleventh-grader Jakhi Matthews, one of her favorite class at Roxborough is her cinematography class.
“I never knew the school had a cinematography class until I came here,” Matthews said. “Since I’ve been in the class, I definitely want to make this my career. I’ve learned a lot from my teacher, because he’s teaching us all aspects of mass media.
“When I go to college, I want to do web design. I also want to continue to direct and act. I will already be prepared for my classes in college because I already have a foundation in it. I’m looking forward to building on what I love to do here.”
Senior Mina McCallum is already looking forward to her future. She was recently accepted to Penn State University and her major will be Pre-Med.
“Working in medicine has always been a dream of mine, so I knew once I go to college that my major would be Pre-Med,” McCallum said. “I applied to Penn State because I know they have a really good program for my major. Everyone at Roxborough has been extremely supportive and they’ve helped me every step of the way. I’m going to miss going to Roxborough, but they prepared me for my future. I’m looking forward to going Penn State in the fall.”
Three student counselors at Roxborough High are helping preparing students for college. The counselors help students with the application process, financial aid, how to chose a college, and college life.
“We created a four-year plan, that will help Roxborough students prepare for post secondary success,” said counselor Jacob Brogan. “We generally receive all types of questions about college, but the two most common questions are ‘where can I go?’ and ‘what options are there for me?’
“With the older students, we push them to think beyond the name that they know and the area that they live in,” he added. “There are so many opportunities out there for students that we just really want them to grasp and see what is out there. With the younger students, it’s really about informing them now, so they will know the direction they want to go in once they become a senior.”
About 90 seniors at Roxborough will receive about $1.5 or 2 million in scholarships for college. The students have already received $900,000 in scholarships.
So far, 85 percent of the seniors at the school have already been accepted to a college or university. The school has a 100 percent acceptance rate to college. Bloomsburg, Temple, LaSalle, and Penn State are just some of the colleges and universities that Roxborough students have already been accepted to.
“It’s important to inform the students about college prior to attending because it will help them be successful once they get there,” said counselor Elizabeth Kilpatrick. “It’s one thing to educate them about college, but we also want to make sure they are where they need to be once they arrive. For many students, they are the first generation in their family to go, so it’s a new experience and adjustment.
“We’re currently planning a field trip to a community college for the seniors,” she added. “The seniors will get different scenarios that normally occur while at campus like a problem with financial aid. They will have to find which office to go to and which person to talk to concerning that matter. Through that hands-on experience, students will learn how to address those issues when we’re not there. We don’t want them to be overwhelmed once they get there, but be prepared and informed.”
The school continues to implement Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, standards for ninth and 10th grade students as a way to increase college-based learning.
The school also has the Reach for College readiness program for incoming freshman. All of the counselors work in partnership with College Access Works, Philadelphia Academy, and GEAR UP.
“Everything that we’re doing is really a collaborative effort and the students are really embracing it,” said counselor Sheila Rubin. “They’re getting exciting, asking questions, and really taking control of their future; it’s a wonderful thing to see. The program has grown tremendously; we’re very proactive in touching base with all the students.
“We go into the classrooms and do guidance and classroom presentations,” she added. “When students take the PSAT’s in tenth and eleventh grade we make sure we go in all the classrooms and go over the scoring. There are a lot of opportunities for the students out here. We’re giving them the information all they have to do is take advantage of it. Their future is bright and we will continue to prepare them for it.”
Known for its rigorous curriculum and various programs, Wagner Middle School continues to have its students perform at an advanced level. Wagner’s mission is to prepare its students to be to be successful in a college preparatory curriculum in high school
“Wagner is a really good school,” said sixth-grader Jabree Smalls. “The teachers at the school have our best interest at heart. We not just learning our lessons from the books that we study, but we are also learning by interacting with the community.”
Wagner currently serves more than 700 students in sixth through eighth grades. The school is divided into three Academic Academies. Each is staffed by a full-time dean who assists teachers in planning the activities of the Academy, making sure students are prepared for learning, helping them cooperate with each other and working with parents to provide the best possible education to their children.
“The teachers here have learned innovative ways to connect with students beyond the simple textbook method,” said principal Maya Johnstone. “Through these methods, the students have seen that they can change the community they live in. I’ve seen students become more confident and take on leadership roles.
“We don’t just prepare our students for high school, but we are also teaching them how to be productive citizens in everyday life. It’s always good for our students to book smart, but sometimes some of the best lessons come from life. At Wagner, we’re teaching them both.”
Wagner has a writing program with LaSalle University called Writing Matters, where mentors come to the school to help students with their writing during and after school hours. The book they learn from is called “Voices of Teens: In Their Own Words.”
“I actually like the class,” said sixth-grader Dyanah Love. “Math is my favorite subject, but through the class I’m a better writer. It helps me tap into my own creativity. I think the reason why so many people in my class like reading the book is because the authors of the stories in the book are the same age as us. So a lot of us can relate to what we are reading.”
Sixth-grader Brent Moses not only likes attending Wagner, but he also likes to read and write poems in his literacy class.
“My favorite subject is literacy,” Moses said. “I like to read, but I also like to write. Poems are the thing that I like to write the most. It’s a good way for me to use my imagination and express myself. I often write about things that are important to me in my life. Wagner is a good school. There are so many opportunities here. I’m looking forward to rest of the school year.”
In addition to the core curriculum, some of Wagner’s extracurricular activities include the Girls’ Club, student government, math enrichment, yearbook and the Environmental Club.
“Wagner will change your life,” said sixth-grader Anyah Coffey. “The programs and opportunities here are endless. I’m really glad I go here. It really prepares you for later on in life and high school.”
The school also has a recycling program, which is taught by science teacher Gretchen Thompson. All students at the school participate. There are also certain students who tend to the recycling bins daily.
“I wanted to be in the recycling program because I wanted to help the Earth,” said eighth-grader Kareema Salaam. “You will be surprised at how much better the Earth will be just by taking time to recycle. The students at Wagner have been recycling daily. Everyone is pitching in and doing their part at the school. It’s a collective effort between everyone and the final result will be a better place for us to live in.”
When it comes to recycling, eighth-grader Oriel Grant like composting the best.
“I like composting the best, because you can make new things from old things that you recycled,” Grant said. “A lot of people don’t know that you don’t have to waste food or the materials in order to compost. The process is really interesting. You can see the changes from food and how it changes into dirt.
“Because of the program, I’ve learned so much more than I did last year. It’s very important to save our Earth now, because if we don’t it won’t be good in the future. Going to Wagner has not only helped me excel academically, but it’s changed my life personally. Because of the opportunities given to me at the school, I’m not only changing the community, but the world.”