Program at Kensington CAPA guides seniors toward
OSCAR CASTILLO, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER CASTILO@PHILLYNEWS.COM,
POSTED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 6:29 AM
IT WAS ONE of those busy days at Kensington High School for
the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), the kind of day where you can't even
get to a computer, senior Angel Hardy said.
Upon finally checking her email, the 18-year-old from
Germantown received some highly anticipated news and actually screamed. A
counselor rushed back into the room to investigate the yelp, saw the email,
hugged Hardy and ran to the principal's office. Before Hardy could utter a word
of the news to anyone, she heard it broadcast over the school's loudspeaker.
Hardy had earned a $25,000 college scholarship.
"I was excited and at the same time it was like a big
weight was lifted off my shoulders," she said.
Hardy, who will attend Bloomsburg University, about two
hours northwest of Philadelphia, credits her success in part to Kensington
CAPA's College Access Program, which helps students achieve a college education
through counseling, college-related events and help filing forms, plus support
She and nine others who also will attend Bloomsburg after
spending their senior year in the program agree that without it, most of them
wouldn't have gone to college.
"I didn't think I was fit for college," said Aysis
Santana, 18. "I didn't even think I was fit for trade school."
Santana credits Jocelyn Rodriguez, the college counselor at
the school at Front and Berks streets, with helping her realize her potential.
"Mrs. Rodriguez was very persistent," Santana
said. "She would even write on my Facebook asking if I got my papers
Aside from providing encouragement, the program, which
served more than 250 students this year, also provided help with the
college-application process, which might be foreign to first-generation college
Fifty-five percent of this year's senior class was accepted
to college, up from only 23 percent six years ago, the school said.
"I thought I wouldn't be able to go to college because
my family wouldn't be able to help me out, even if I asked for help," said
Gelane Pratts, the first person in her family to attend college.
The students praised the program's family-like atmosphere -
something they may not have at home.
"At events Principal [Debora Borges-] Carrera would say
that we're here with each other more than with our families, we have to treat
each other like family," Taisha Martinez said. "Without them, I
wouldn't have made it this far."
"This is a safe place," Carrera said, "not
only physically, but also emotionally."
Carrera explains that the program creates college awareness
and a "college-going" culture, while also trying to change the
culture of the school.
Being from Kensington, Carrera feels a responsibility to
provide her students with opportunities to succeed.
"Part of my personal mission is to show the kids if I
can do it, so can they," Carrera said.
But Carrera is concerned about the program's future. If the
school district doesn't find more money to plug a $304 million budget deficit,
the school will lose two counselors.
"It's disheartening," Carrera said. "We
worked so hard to get to this point."