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August 23, 2014, 1:30 am

Businesses help N. Philly kids attend Temple

Alpha Office Supplies, a North Philadelphia company, and Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, have partnered to pledge $250,000 to Temple University over the next five years to support Temple scholarships for North Philadelphia students.

The new Alpha Office Supplies and Staples Scholarship Fund will become a part of Temple University’s 20/20 Scholarship Program, which offers financial aid and opportunity for local high school students. These scholarships provide $5,000 per year to qualifying students who are permanent residents of the four ZIP codes surrounding Temple’s main campus.

“Contributing to this scholarship program fits perfectly with our corporate mission,” said David Derr, district sales manager for Staples Advantage. “We certainly know the North Philadelphia community is being challenged. By making this donation, we help young people in the area achieve a brighter future.”

“Education is extremely important to our company. We want to give more students the opportunity to succeed,” added Chet Riddick, Alpha’s president and CEO.

Temple created the 20/20 scholarship program in 2011. Verishia Coaxum, one of the inaugural 20/20 Scholars, was able to use her scholarship money to accomplish her dream of living on campus.

The lifelong North Philadelphia resident spent her freshman year as part of a Living Learning Community in the university’s White Hall.

“I wanted to leave home to get the full college experience and really learn about myself,” recalled Coaxum, already a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars after her first year as a Temple student. “Without the scholarship, I couldn’t have done that.”

The 20/20 Scholarship has helped Coaxum in other ways, too. At a ceremony for the awardees last fall, Coaxum met Evelyn Jones Busby, CEO of the Women’s Christian Alliance, a nonprofit community service organization located a few blocks from Temple’s main campus.

Busby offered Coaxum a summer job at the Alliance tutoring kindergarten-through-fifth-grade children in math and literacy.

The scholarships take their name from Temple’s 20/20 framework for campus development, which is creating a state-of-the-art living and learning environment.

The awards for local students are only the latest effort by Temple to strengthen its surrounding community. The university provides more than $16 million in scholarships and grants to Philadelphia students each year.

Temple has educated more Philadelphia residents than any other university in Southeast Pennsylvania. Last year, a little more than one-quarter (9,914) of Temple’s students were from Philadelphia.

Growing up, Tyquinten Allen always knew he would someday be a Temple student.

“When I was younger, I used to go by campus, and my mom would always tell me, ‘I want you to go to a school like that,’” remembered Allen. “Now that I’m here, I feel like I’ve really made her proud.”

When Allen found out that he received the 20/20 Scholarship, he knew his life had changed forever.

“It meant a lot,” he said, “because I was really wondering how I would pay for college.”

Temple works closely with the School District of Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia and many other partners to prepare, recruit, enroll and graduate city students through efforts ranging from middle school early intervention to full scholarships. Programs include early college courses, college preparation, a dual admission partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia, financial aid, outreach and more than 100 community fairs and information sessions. Temple also offers GED instruction, community education and seminars for North Philadelphia youth and young adults on how to get into college.

“Temple is committed to offering local students access to higher education,” said Ken Lawrence, senior vice president of Temple’s Office of Government, Community & Public Affairs. “We are thrilled to partner with Alpha Office Supplies and Staples. With their support, we will be able to increase access to our scholarship program and help make the dream of a college education a reality for more students in North Philadelphia.”

Staples Advantage has provided office supplies and other services to Temple for more than 40 years through three different acquisitions, while Alpha has maintained a business partnership with the university for nearly 20 years. The two companies previously collaborated in 2007 to establish a scholarship at Temple for local students attending the Fox School of Business.

Alpha, a minority-owned, North Philadelphia-based business, views these gifts as an investment in the area where it does business and recruits new employees. “It’s so important for us to be able to give back to the community, to provide jobs and educate people in the community, because we hire these folks,” said Riddick. “After graduating, they may knock on our door or on Staples’ door and say, ‘I’m here to look for employment, because I know you guys helped me.’”