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When Jahmiah Guillory entered his senior year, his grade point average was 1.7. Then during an assembly at Oliver High School, he learned about the Pittsburgh Promise, a program that helps pay for college for any Pittsburgh Public School student graduating with a 2.25 average.
“At that time it was just mathematically possible for me to do that,” he told the audience at the Nov. 12 Graduate Pittsburgh Summit on reducing dropouts at the YWCA. “But I would have had to get 4.0s, four quarters in a row—well, I did. Now I’m at Penn State studying petroleum and gas engineering. I expect I’ll have about a 3.6 for my first semester grade.”
|SALUTING SUCCESS— Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril congratulates Jahmiah Guillory, now at Penn State, for achieving two consecutive 4.0 GPA semesters in his senior year to qualify for the Promise scholarship.
During his keynote speech, Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril asked Guillory to address the audience because he exemplifies what the Promise hopes to achieve. Guillory, who grew up with seven siblings and a single mother in Northview Heights, is now the first in his family to attend college.
But what if Guillory had just missed? And what of the students who know they will fall short of the 2.25 GPA required to be eligible for the $5,000 per year scholarship? Research results presented earlier during the one-day summit included results from 1,770 interviews with dropouts. When asked what would keep them interested in graduating from high school, 73 percent said, “incentives/rewards for graduating,” and 79 percent, more specifically said, “money for college.”
So what incentive to stay in school can the Promise offer students who will not make a 2.25 GPA? Last year, there was no answer to that question. Now, Ghubril announced, there is.
“We are developing a program, in collaboration with the Community College of Allegheny County for those students with GPAs between 2.0 and 2.49,” he said. “They will be able to take a pre-determined track of seven credits. If they complete those, maintaining a 2.0, then the whole CCAC curriculum is open to them the second year. If they complete that with a 2.0, then they can go to any college, university or technical school in the state for the final two years.”
Ghubril said those students would be identified and contacted privately through school guidance counselors in March so they could enroll at CCAC in May.
The idea that if you apply yourself enough and want to attend a post-secondary college, university or technical school, at least money will not be a problem. This is a powerful tool in the fight to reduce Pittsburgh’s 35 percent dropout rate, Ghubril said.
“We don’t need more research to tell us that African-American males are at the highest risk for dropping out. This isn’t nuclear physics. But together we can remove the hurdles that lead to these kids getting off track,” he said. Though it’s too early to have four years of college data, the numbers say the Promise is working—so does Jahmiah.”
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