When Tyleenda Wilson became a high school student four years ago, she made a promise to herself that she would do better in high school than she did as a student in middle school.
Wilson accomplished her goal, as she will be giving a speech to fellow classmates as the salutatorian of Belmont Charter High School’s first graduating class.
Wilson, 18, is among 70 students graduating in Belmont’s Class of 2021.
“I’m looking forward to graduating, not just because I’m a part of my school’s first graduating class, but because I kept that promise to myself to do better during my high school years. It feels good to accomplish that goal and to see my hard work pay off.”
The in-person ceremony will take place Friday on Belmont Charter High School in West Philadelphia.
“We’re excited to have our students and families be a part of our graduation ceremony,” said Belmont Charter High School Principal Genevieve Byrd-Robinson.
“We will have a keynote speaker and give out awards to students who have been a part of the Belmont community since pre-K and elementary school,” she added. “We have an amazing celebration lined up for our first graduating class.”
Eighty-three percent of Belmont’s graduating class have been accepted into post-secondary opportunities including college, the military and trade schools. The remaining students are currently working or will enter the workforce.
“A lot of our kids are going to schools in Pennsylvania, but we also have students going to college in New Jersey and Atlanta,” said Belmont Charter High School Director of College and Career Services Malaun Yuille.
“We have kids going to trade schools like Lincoln Tech and Empire, the military and going into the workforce,” she said. “All of our kids will be graduating with a plan based on where they want to be in the future.”
As a student at Belmont, Wilson was the president of student government and has participated in wrestling, basketball, cheerleading and track.
Under the guidance of her track coach Deworski Odom, Wilson has gone to states, won the District 12 gold medal in the 400-meter dash and was the runner-up in the District 12 100-meter dash. She ran track for Overbrook High School.
Wilson also earned college credits at Community College of Philadelphia through the ACE (Advance College Experience) program and participated in internships at Drexel University and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.
“My overall experience at Belmont has been good,” Wilson said. “The teachers and staff have been supportive and the curriculum, programming and internships prepared me for my future.
“Belmont really gave me opportunities that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else,” she said.
Founded in 2017, Belmont is a college preparatory and career readiness one-to-one high school. The school’s foundation is set by their elementary and middle schools.
Through an individualized career plan, which starts during freshman year, career counselors guide students in the exploration of career, academic and postsecondary opportunities throughout their high school journey.
The school offers career expeditions four times a week, where students are introduced to different careers and pathways through hands-on projects related to a particular career.
Students also participate in 60 hours of community service, summer internships, electives that prepare them with skills required to be successful in a wide range of occupations, advisory that focuses on career readiness every month and a four-year mandatory graduation project.
A program, called STRIPES (Studying Real Issues, People and Experiences), is designed for juniors and seniors who are considered at-risk, but who have also been identified as natural entrepreneurs with substantial promise.
Working with support from advisers at Belmont and Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship, students work through a custom-designed curriculum in addition to their regular coursework.
“Our core value is to meet students where they are and then challenge them to get to the next step and I believe as a school we’re doing just that,” said Dean of Students Tony Dover.
“We challenge them with the curriculum and programming we provide,” he said. “We’re hard on them when we need to be, but we’re also supportive and provide them with the skills and resources they need to prepare for their future.”
After graduating from Belmont, Wilson will be attending Arcadia University in the fall. She wants to be a teacher.
“I remember having a hard time in school from third through sixth grade,” Wilson said. “At the time, I wasn’t getting the best grades. I had one teacher who actually moved up grades with us so she could continue to help the same group of students she already had.
“Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I want to help students the same way that teacher helped me.”