Students of All Backgrounds Find Path to College at Friendship
This year, more than 30 Friendship alumni will graduate from institutions of higher learning. Some will receive bachelor’s degrees and enter the workforce as well-rounded professionals eager to contribute to their communities. Others will earn professional or master’s degrees, emerging as experts in specialized fields.
While these college graduates are forever connected by their Friendship Public Charter School (Friendship) experience, their personal paths through high school and on to college were quite different.
Some lived in homeless shelters and struggled to balance Friendship’s rigorous college-preparatory classes with the social and economic challenges common among America’s homeless population. Others trudged the murky paths of urban frustration, daily confronting gang violence, drugs and extreme poverty. Many were the first in their families to attend college, and some made choices that seemingly placed college out of reach.
And then there were students who came from solid middle-class families, having parents, grandparents and other relatives who paved the way for them as college graduates.
Yet despite their diverse backgrounds, all of these former Friendship students made it to and through college.
So what was the common denominator – that unique “thing” – that each Friendship student experienced propelling them from college hopeful to college graduate?
According to Friendship Alumni Affairs Coordinator Ashref Elshazli, in addition to an intentional “college-culture,” the advisory services offered high school students play an integral role.
“Designating a class period to college preparation is significant. The relationships that can be built with a teacher who designs his or her instruction around getting students into and through college is huge,” Elshazli explained.
Percee Goings (Columbia University, C’16) and Dominique Smith (Livingstone College, C’15) exemplify the diversity among Friendship’s recent college graduates.
Percee always knew he would attend college. A high-performer, ranked among top students nationwide, Percee comes from a close-knit, supportive family.
With 12 Early College credits under his belt before graduating from high school, Percee praises Friendship for preparing him for college and pushing him closer toward his dream of opening a school for homeless citizens.
“I’ve always wanted to help people. When I was a little boy, I wanted to open a school for the homeless, and I knew that making it to the NFL would give me enough money to do so,” he said. “As a future Columbia graduate, I feel like I can really do it.”
Dominique, however, didn’t always consider herself college material. A series of personal tragedies – the absence of her father and loss of her mother at a young age – forced Dominique to focus more on survival than college dreams.
“Dominique was a long shot from going to college. Not only had she lost both parents as a little girl, she also lost her elder brother during her senior year of high school,” said Elshazli. “Her advisory teacher was definitely vested in her and made sure Dominique was vested in herself.”
Dominique graduated from Livingston College last year. She plans to attend graduate school and work with expectant mothers.
“Our students represent a spectrum of personal experiences. As their educators, we must meet them where they are,” said Friendship CEO-Elect Patricia Brantley. “We know the odds they face, but we must do what it takes to get our children to and through college, and beyond.”