Deward Johns knew this day was coming.
Speaking on behalf of his 11 fellow departing seniors from the College Access Program (CAP) at the recent graduation ceremony held at Project H.O.M.E.'s Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, Johns betrayed a common mix of anxiety and confidence when contemplating the important high school-to-college transition.
"As I moved through the Teen Program and entered each new school year, it always felt bittersweet because I knew that each new grade meant I was getting closer…to college," he said.
But Johns credited CAP for preparing him for the academic and personal challenges ahead, lauding the program for having contributed to his growth as a student and a person. "Every moment here has been truly genuine and special for me from the time I started four years ago until now."
The College Access Program is intended to prepare area high school students for college by providing SAT prep, tutoring, college and university visits, financial counseling, and scholarships. The support structure even extends into their college years as staff maintain contact with graduates, rendering support and guidance to ensure they stay focused and on track to graduate.
The year was a good one for the program; we supported 15 high school juniors and 19 CAP alumni (students currently enrolled in an institution of higher education) in addition to our 12 graduating seniors. Those graduating seniors maintained almost uniformly excellent GPAs, were accepted to over 50 colleges and universities throughout the United States, and were offered over $140,000 in scholarships, adding to the over $40,000 in scholarships generously provided by our donors.
Perhaps the year's best news came with CAP's first college graduate, Tanisha Clanton, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Albright College. The 2008 CAP graduate is currently working as an Art Specialist at a summer camp/afterschool program administered by Caring People Alliance. Clanton credited CAP with helping her "understand the challenges that would be thrown my way and how to conquer them with motivation."
Clanton also singled out Tomika Brown, the College Access Program Coordinator, for special praise, citing Brown's tough-love approach for keeping her on track. "I must say that, without Tomika, a lot of things would not have gone smoothly," she said.
As for Brown, she couldn't be happier with CAP's newest graduating class. Aside from their academic excellence, Brown was heartened to watch them become a "family, sharing college and scholarship information and offering support and encouragement to one another as they balanced the challenges of senior year and college planning."
Brown cited the overwhelming trust CAP has inculcated over the years for the program's consistent success. "Our students [have] to make tough decisions, answering questions like 'Should I choose college over employment?' and 'Which college is best for me considering my family can't afford to pay tuition?'" she said. "Our students trust us to help them make the best decisions for their futures and that we have their best interests at heart."
That trust has been well placed, according to LaTanya Williams, whose eldest son, Khavaughn, is currently a sophomore at Penn State.
"I am grateful for [the help Khavaughn received] with his decisions about his choice of schools and for keeping in touch with him during the school year to make sure he was doing okay,” she said. “This assistance [helped] him continue reaching for his educational goals."
You can also read the transcript of Deward's speech here. For photos from the ceremony, visit our Facebook album. Finally, our summer youth interns just finished up their placements – students who will soon be in Deward's position! – so click over to our YouTube channel to hear them discuss their work!