"Teamwork makes the dream work." This past Thursday, this phrase echoed through the Mayor's Reception Room at Philadelphia's City Hall, where five participants of The Choice is Yours (TCY) program gathered to celebrate their high school graduation. Alberta Lloyd, Career Instructor for TCY at JEVS Human Services (JEVS), stood at the front of the room to present the five individuals, who were about to be presented with their Penn Foster High School diplomas. "This is more than a program " this is an opportunity," she noted.

Still More Work to be Done

Before the graduation kicked off, Penn Foster and JEVS partnered to host a Thought Leadership Roundtable next door, inviting over 20 local leaders to discuss trends in workforce development and discuss how to provide education and skills training solutions to unemployed or under-employed young people and adults.

Kicking off the discussion, John Colborn, COO of JEVS, provided a progress report of Philadelphia's education, employment, and income rates by comparing changes over the past 15 years. John highlighted in his presentation that from 2000-2014, Philadelphia residents without a high school diploma has dropped from 28.8% to 18.5% and those with a college degree has climbed form 10.3% to 14.2%, but noted there is still work to be done " Philadelphia's youth poverty rate has climbed from 31.6% to 37.1%. Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster, continued the discussion by addressing the need to scale workforce development, education, and training practices and how Penn Foster does so to empower youth and adult learners.

Education Gives You Power

In addition to the five new Penn Foster graduates, the ceremony at City Hall brought in over 85 attendees, including family, friends, and leaders who played a role in providing the TCY participants with this opportunity and ensuring their success along the way. Opening the ceremony, TCY Program Director Nigel Bowe addressed the graduates, remarking, "Education is something that, once achieved, cannot be taken from you. Once you've obtained that diploma, it is embedded in you, it becomes a part... of who you are, it is your badge and you wear it."

Penn Foster's own Frank Britt presented the graduation keynote to the audience, noting the incredible grit and resiliency the graduates demonstrated by getting themselves to where they are now. "The most important thing that you have shown today is that you have what it takes to be able to overcome adversity," Frank commended. Additional graduation speakers included Michael Barry, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney and Byron C. Cotter, Alternative Sentencing Director at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, both significant players in determining the best course of action for the TCY participants earlier this year.

Congratulations again to The Choice is Yours participants and Penn Foster High School graduates: Michael Flanagan, Class Valedictorian; Monique Curry, Class Salutatorian; Jujuan Cardwell, Honorable Mention; Laron McDaniels, Honorable Mention; and Melvin Weaver, Honorable Mention! To see more from the exciting day, watch below: 

Recommended for You: How High School Diploma Programs Support Offender Reentry

Resources: Photo by Linette Kielinski.