A North Philadelphia high school principal is starting off the 2021-22 school year making history at her alma mater.
Shervon Thompson is the first alumni in Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education (CTE) High School’s 85-year history to serve as principal.
She replaces former principal Toni Damon, who led the school for nine years.
“It’s very surreal to be in this position,” Thompson said. “I went from being a student here to working in every area within the school to now being the principal and the first alumna to do so.
“I’m not the type of person that likes to have a lot of attention, but I’m extremely grateful and honored to have this new experience and continue the legacy of Dobbins.”
Thompson, 42, graduated from Dobbins at 2150 W. Lehigh Ave. in 1996.
As a student, she was class president and a member of the National Honor Society. She participated in the cosmetology program and later earned her cosmetology license upon graduation.
After attending college, Thompson later came back to Dobbins as an educator.
She spent 19 years at the vocational technical school where she worked in several roles including cosmetology teacher, cosmetology supervisor, CTE teacher lead and assistant principal.
As the assistant principal, Thompson helped students with virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Through our multi-tiered system of support, we made sure that every student had some sort of access to the curriculum and instruction or some sort of post-secondary plan for them,” Thompson said.
“My task during the pandemic was to make sure that every student had access to that,” she added. “We had to make sure we had interventions and programs so students could still feel that connection and get the help they need as if they were in the building.”
Dobbins offers its students a variety of CTE programs that range from barbering and business technology to commercial and advertising arts, cosmetology, culinary arts, fashion design and plumbing technology.
Upon completion of the program, students can earn certifications that are accepted in the professional world.
Graduates of Dobbins have gone on to be part of the highest levels of sports, government and corporate America.
Among the notable alumni includes former WNBA player and women’s basketball coach of the University of South Carolina Dawn Staley, former Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and former NFL player Raheem Brock.
Carolyn C. Monson, president of the Dobbins Alumni Association, said she is excited about Thompson being the newest principal of Dobbins.
“She has a vision for what our schools should be moving forward in terms of students’ education and getting our scores up in math, English and science,” Monson said.
“She’s really about building up the whole child mentally, physically and emotionally,” she added. “We’re really excited about this newest chapter in Dobbins history.”
Monson, who was an educator for 45 years, first met Thompson as a student in her classroom.
“She was an excellent student,” Monson said. “Her work ethic was impeccable and she was involved in a lot of different things at Dobbins.
“She’s just a phenomenal young woman,” she added. “I know that she will definitely be an inspiration to many of our students for years to come.”
A native of North Philadelphia, Thompson has a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Cabrini College and a bachelor’s degree in workforce development and training from Penn State University.
She is the founder of Cosmopolitan Tech Beauty Center, Inc., a business she started in 2015 that offers professional development seminars for practicing cosmetologists and barbers.
“My cosmetology license opened so many doors for me,” Thompson said. “I was able to do hair while I was in college because I was a licensed professional and before you know it that led to me having my own clientele.
“After college, I opened my own salon, which eventually led me to becoming the cosmetology teacher at Dobbins,” she added. “Dobbins really prepared me to be college- and career-ready and because of that I am where I am today.”
Thompson said her goal for the upcoming school year is to improve academic achievement, rebuild relationships with students and expand school partnerships.
“The first few days of school we will have an educational symposium where we will have workshops and motivational speakers talking to students in their classrooms,” Thompson said.
“We also want to make sure that we have partnerships to give students not only pathways to succeed, but to also grow their mindset.”
Thompson added that she wants students to leave Dobbins being lifelong learners.
“Learning is a way of life, it doesn’t just stop once you graduate from high school,” Thompson said.
“I want our students to have equitable learning experiences that equip them to compete in the global workforce,” she added. “I want them to leave Dobbins with not only a skill, but with the knowledge and experiences to be ready for college, career and life.”