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Civic Impact

More than 3,800 Promise scholarships later, seeking more students to serve

The Pittsburgh Promise has completed its fourth year of awarding scholarships to Pittsburgh Public high-school graduates with a clear sense of accomplishment and "a ton more to do," says Executive Director Saleem Ghubril.
PPS now has a completion rate of 71 percent, up from 63 percent in 2007 (the year before the Promise began). The immediate goal remains to graduate 85 percent, which would exceed the national rate of 70.5 percent, and Pennsylvania's 79 percent average -- although Ghubril cautions that high schools across the state are only now standardizing how they count graduation rates. Some previously weren't counting those who left in 9th, 10th or 11th grade, for instance, but only those who started and completed their senior years.
So far, 59 percent of the scholarships have gone to girls and 41 percent to boys, while whites have received 53 percent while blacks have received 41 percent, with the remainder going to others. The Promise announced an effort to further diversify the recipient pool by attracting more Latino families to a city notoriously low in diversity. Immigrant-focused VibrantPittsburgh is leading this effort, with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development promoting the local jobs picture and the Urban Redevelopment Authority offering a guide to local affordable housing. Another new initiative to promote the $40,000 Promise scholarship is adding informative placards to area homes' "For Sale" signs, cluing non-city residents in to the opportunity that comes with moving here.
The Promise also introduced its first class of Executive Scholarship recipients. These scholarships for the highest-achieving high-schoolers come with the sponsorship of local corporations and nonprofits, representing an effort to connect students with prominent local organizations to increase student access to jobs and community involvement.
The Promise also reported that it helped increase retention rates 9 to 18 percent in schools with Promise Scholars, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.
Overall, the Promise, say Ghubril, is "bearing fruit [although] we were building the plane as we were flying it. I feel remarkably good about [being] four years into it. I can, with integrity, say we are fulfilling the Promise."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Saleem Ghubril, Pittsburgh Promise
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