Despite the lack of traditional caps and gowns, the 21 graduates of the Advanced Tech at College Class of 2009 marched proudly onto the stage to receive certificates recognizing the completion of their final two years of high school at Community College of Philadelphia’s Main Campus.
The June 10 ceremony in the Bonnell Building Auditorium was a prelude to the more formal commencement ceremonies at their various home high schools where the graduates received their official diplomas.
However, the ATC ceremony at the campus where they had taken both high school and college courses since 2007 was very significant to the ATC students. Although they were recruited from seven separate neighborhood high schools, they were now a team. “We have made relationships here that will last a lifetime,” said class salutatorian Evangelia Malahias.
“There is no other program like ours and ... the teaching staff at ATC was like no other. They expected nothing but the best from us every day,” Malahias told classmates and the audience of family, friends, faculty and administration members from the College and the School District of Philadelphia.
The 2009 class is the fourth cohort to graduate from the program, which was launched in 2004. A total of 110 students have completed the program that allows high school students to earn 30 or more college credits while completing their junior and senior years of high school at the College’s Main Campus. Malahias, 18, holds the record with 44 college credits, giving her a head start on a bachelor’s degree when she begins classes at Temple University this September.
Malahias and Samuel Hardyanto, 18, the ATC valedictorian, came from Furness High School in South Philadelphia. The two also were salutatorian and valedictorian, respectively, at their Furness commencement.
The College operates ATC in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. ATC recruited a total of 120 students from the district’s lower-performing high schools. In five years, only 10 students were returned to their home schools before completing the ATC program. Of the 110 students who completed the two years and received their diplomas, 96 percent went on to attend college. The success of ATC students stands in contrast to the public school system, where nearly half of the students drop out.
All of the members of the 2009 ATC Class plan to continue their college education. Eight will return to Community College of Philadelphia in September. The other graduates are moving on to Temple, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg, Mansfield, Penn State and Villanova universities and Dickinson College.
ATC Director Linda Hansell, Ph.D., said ATC has succeeded in its mission to prepare high school students for a seamless transition to college. “We have shown that with the appropriate resources and support, it is possible for students who are at risk of dropping out to complete high school and make a smooth transition to the world of higher education and work,” Hansell said.
The 2009 Class may be the last cohort to complete the program, which has been suspended while the College and the school district search for a new source of funding.