Around the wooden conference table sat eleven freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior high school students. Regardless of their distinct cultural, academic and social perspectives, they unanimously agreed that Academy of Palumbo was a hub for educational opportunities.
The school’s doors opened in 2006. Since then, Palumbo has consecutively made Adequate Yearly Progress every year.
“We have that thirst to prove ourselves. We know that we have the potential to do just as much as all those other kids are doing in those other schools that have more experience. So, we have that drive to be able to achieve as much as we can because we know we have it in us,” sophomore Ibrahim Bakri said.
In December 2011, Palumbo was named The Get Schooled Fall Attendance Challenge East Regional Winner and was treated to a red carpet movie premiere event at the United Artists Riverview Plaza Stadium Theaters.
The boys volleyball team won the city championship in 2010. In the same year, the girls basketball team was PIAA District XII champion. The girls volleyball team was district champion for the 2008-2009 seasons.
Ej Goldstein, athletic director, physical education teacher and volleyball teams coach, has been at Palumbo since its opening. Goldstein said his most memorable experience was winning volleyball championships.
“The kids are awesome. I think all the teachers love being here especially those who have been here the whole time. We got a good group of kids,” Goldstein said.
In her third year of teaching, Susan Lee teaches algebra 2 and pre-calculus. As the sponsor for the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) club, Lee holds math, business and technology workshops. Currently, she is training students for the Moody Mega Math Challenge. In this March 2012 challenge, students will be tested on their ability to solve real world issues using math.
“The kids’ personalities are different than any other magnet school. They’re very driven in a different way, they have different personalities and I’ve grown with a lot of the kids. I’ve gotten to know them as a student and also a person. So it really changed the dynamic of teaching and understanding what a teacher is about, not just the academic stuff about it,” Lee said.
Palumbo students praise teachers like Lee and Goldstein.
Richette Walton, sophomore, mock trail participant and recipient of a scholarship at Drexel University for law, appreciates the advice of teachers.
“The teachers will help you, but they always go back to that college thing like, ‘I’m not going to hold your hand, sometimes you have to think on your own.’ They tell you why you’re going to college. It’s not you’re going to college so that you can have a fancy degree to put up on your wall. No, you’re going to college to make a career,” Walton said.
Along with the encouragement of teachers, students said they liked the school’s communal setting.
Vice president of the junior class and baseball team member, Terrence Wilson, said he chose Palumbo because he felt he belonged.
“You’re not just a student. Everybody knows each other and it’s like a family,” Wilson said.
“Even though [we’re] in different grades, you may not know everybody’s name, but you know their faces and you might speak to them in the hallway. In bigger schools, you don’t really have that connection with everybody and the teachers as well,” Aliyah Hoye said.
Hoye is a senior who tutors and manages the football and wrestling teams. Interested in double majoring in nursing and education, Hoye has been accepted to Kutztown University with a full scholarship, Harrisburg University with a $24, 000 scholarship and Virginia Union University with a $12, 000 scholarship. She still waits for responses from Virginia State, Duke, Syracuse and Drexel University.
“You have to know how to space out your social life and your school work because you’re going to have a huge work load at one point, so you got to learn how to balance that out between your outside life and school,” Payne said.
Some students, like senior Lisa Cheung, said getting involved in extra-curricular activities helped her with educational and personal growth.
“It’s not all about academics. You want to contribute and have your interest thrive. You can do that when you have so many different opportunities available to you,” Cheung said.
Cheung is involved with WISE and Build On. In November 2001, Cheung was named Office Depot’s and the School District of Philadelphia’s Senior of the Month for her service in the community.
“You become more social. You learn from other people from different perspectives. So that’s why I think it’s really important to join things like community service club to make a difference in your community,” Cheung said.
Kellie Livingston has aspirations to study meteorology. As a junior, she is active in student council, crochet club, WISE and has to balance a part-time job at a local grocery store.
Khalil Payne said he learned time management skills that helped him with his success as basketball team manager, debate team member and National Honors Society student.
There are 26 clubs and 12 sports teams at Palumbo including Girls badminton, garden club and cycling club.
“I think one thing that is a plus is that there’s no real strict traditions. So if you want to start something, you can start something,” said Emma Feyler, president of the junior class.
Spirit Week, dressing up in costumes for Halloween, the faculty versus students basketball game and the senior class fashion show are some traditions held at Palumbo.
“This school has a lot of school spirit. We celebrate a lot of holidays. It’s really fun. It brings you closer to your school. When you’re proud of your school, you try harder to represent your school and it’s really positive,” freshman Salma Bakri said.