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Campus & Community

Co-op Students Provide 'Life-Changing' Experience for West Philly High Schoolers

February 4, 2015

Joshua Williams, a junior from George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, presents on his experience as a WesGold Fellow to Drexel faculty and staff.
Joshua Williams, a junior from George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, presents on his experience as a WesGold Fellow to Drexel faculty and staff.

Three Drexel students used their co-ops this summer to provide an experience to local high school students that was described as “life-changing.”

“I’ve done a lot of self discovery,” explained Leanne Patton, a junior at Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet High School. “I’ve been inspired. I tell myself now that I will be successful.”

Patton was one of 14 students who took part in the latest iteration of the WesGold Fellows Program held last summer. Drexel students Avery Martin-Chadwick and Myckell White worked day-to-day with the students during the eight weeks the program ran in the summer.

Initially, the fellowship program was established in 2007 to help young people in West Philadelphia understand large-scale real estate developments and how they’d affect their community.

Since then, the program expanded to teach high school students in West Philadelphia neighborhoods financial awareness and management, college planning and career development.

Jabari Jones, another Drexel student in the LeBow College of Business, used his co-op with the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution to develop the fellowship.

“It’s amazing to see these students come together an change their ideas of who they can be and what they can do,” Jones said after Patton, Azeb Kieda and Joshua Williams presented to Drexel faculty and staff on their experiences.

Jones’ plans for development of the WesGold Fellowship program include increasing the program’s exposure to Drexel.

As such, his advisor, Jodi Cataline, a professor in the LeBow College of Business, provided a lecture to the WesGold students and also helped with the program’s logistics. Additionally, Jones helped secure space for the WesGold program in the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships next year.

Jim Burnett serves as the Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution. He’s one of the founders of the outreach program that partners his organization with The Goldenberg Group.

To him, WesGold is about changing students’ opinions about themselves.

“We want them to realize there are more opportunities for them than what they’ve thought before,” he said.

One example, Burnett said, was when the program was first being developed. The teachers he pitched it to felt the program was too much for high schoolers and should be run for college students.

“Even there, they were keeping down their expectations of students,” Burnett said. “The point is we want to stretch them.”

Williams, a junior from George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, said being in the program and experiencing some of what Drexel has to offer through Jones, Martin-Chadwick and White opens it up as a possibility for his higher education.

“Drexel University will be a great help in achieving my goals,” Williams said.

Interested in business, he first learned about entrepreneurship as a concept from his contact with Drexel.

Kieda, an immigrant to the U.S. from Ethiopia, said she has struggled a little with the transition to a new country, but the program allowed for her to become much more comfortable.

“The struggle didn’t stop me from what I was supposed to do,” she said.

“I’ll never tell them, but I tear up when I see them presenting up there,” Burnett said. “It means a lot to hear what they took out of this program.”

Jones hopes to help out more students like Kieda, Williams and Patton. He’s come up with a potential strategic development plan to integrate Drexel further into the program.

“I think West Philadelphia has such a talent pool that the University could pull much more from,” Jones said. “This program could help make more kids aware that it really is a possibility and Drexel would benefit from that.”

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