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.
U.S. News and World Report released their “Best High Schools” state lists last week, ranking eight School District of Philadelphia high schools among the honorees in Pennsylvania, and awarding Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration school as the number one high school in Pennsylvania overall.
To determine the Best High Schools in Pennsylvania, schools were analyzed at the state level based on how students performed on state assessments. Masterman students proved to be 98 percent proficient in reading, and 100 percent proficient in math. U.S. News also recognized that Masterman students boast a 94 percent participation rate in Advanced Placement coursework and exams, and score an 83.8 on the college readiness index.
Other District schools making the list were Central High School at number 10, High School of Creative and Performing Arts at number 19, Academy at Palumbo at number 21, Bodine William W High School at number 33, Girard Academic Music Program at number 40, Carver High School Engineering & Science at number 50, and Girls High School at number 51.
This was the fourth edition of the “Best High Schools” rankings. Click here to view the complete list.
The Academy at Palumbo, a school of 646 students, improved its overall attendance rate to 97 percent in seven weeks to win the East Region of the national Get Schooled Foundation’s Fall 2011 Attendance Challenge.
The friendly competition engaged nearly 80,000 students from 73 high schools in 17 states, between Oct. 3 and Nov. 18, students through a variety of online, social media and in-school activities. Across all participating schools 1,000 additional students came to school during the course of the challenge.
In the Eastern region, the Academy at Palumbo, motivated by the idea of a national competition and the chance to rally their school around a common goal of improving attendance, worked hard to improve upon their attendance rate.
“We are so proud that our Academy students showed their commitment to their education and their future by showing up to school and participating in the Attendance Challenge,” said Adrienne Wallace-Chew, principal of the Academy at Palumbo.
Kiana Thompson, the Academy’s Roster Chairperson and the school’s Attendance Challenge’s coordinator, said, “As a school, we were trying to think of creative ways to increase school attendance, and the Get Schooled’s Attendance Challenge and Wake-up calls came at the perfect time to help us reach our goals.”
Attendance is the greatest predictor of graduation and a significant driver of student achievement. Research shows that missing just ten days a year can lead to academic problems. Students who miss 20 days a year (or about one month) have less than a one in five chance of graduating from high school.
Few districts report these chronic truancy numbers despite their correlation to low graduation rates.
“Hundreds of students came to school this fall who historically have not,” said Marie Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation. “Thanks to the hard work of the students and staff, the Academy’s improvement means the school is on the right path to improving its graduation rate.”
To celebrate the school’s achievements, Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom, hosted a red carpet experience for the students, with a “Mission: Impossible”-themed event at the school and preview screenings of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” at the UA Riverview theatre in Philadelphia for all students.
Get Schooled brought a mix of celebrity encouragement, interactive educational games, and plenty of opportunities to elevate the youth voice, resulting in an average of 2.8 percent attendance rate increase across all participating schools. Schools earned points in the challenge by improving their attendance, nominating teachers who inspire them to come to school, testing their knowledge in an on-line trivia bowl, and signing up for wake-up calls from their favorite celebrities such as Tyra Banks and Trey Songz. There were185 students who signed up for Wake-up Calls from celebrities.
During the Challenge, the Academy hosted a Halloween attendance-focused pep rally with more than 600 students and teachers to celebrate their high attendance rates and to showcase their school spirit.
Academy students also completed 1,050 Sporcle quizzes testing their knowledge about science, geography and hip-hop stars’ real names.
This month, Get Schooled launched another national challenge — this one focused on a key milestone related to students’ likelihood of success in college: completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Details are at www.getschooled.com
Get Schooled is a non-profit organization dedicated to using media, technology and popular culture to improve high school graduation rates and college success rates. Get Schooled connects with young Americans through its combination of on-air programming, online content, on-the ground events and school-based engagement initiatives. Together with hundreds of schools, educators, and students, and boosted by partners like Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Get Schooled motivates and empowers students to make high school education a priority and college education a possibility. To learn more, go to www.getschooled.com or follow Get Schooled at www.facebook.com/getschooledfoundation or www.twitter.com/getschooled.
Hearing the orchestra practice Zimmer’s “The Dark Knight” and seeing students playing the guitar are just some of the activities that go on during a normal school day at Academy at Palumbo Liberal Arts High School.
Known for its academic excellence, Palumbo is a selective, college preparatory magnet school. Originally modeled after Central High, the school’s purpose is to create a diverse community of college bound scholars who are responsible, ethical, and caring citizens while including a rich cultural arts experience.
“Our goal has always been to prepare our students for college and the real world,” says principal Adrienne Wallace-Chew. “Palumbo continues to excel academically. We have a 100 percent graduation rate for our seniors and we are continuing to provide them with the best education and programs.
“We are considered small for an academic school, but the students here does extremely well and always take full advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. We are doing everything that we possibly can to make sure all of our students succeed.”
Some of Palumbo’s arts activities and classes include vocal music, instrumental music classes, visual arts instruction, theater instruction, choir, band, orchestra, drum-line, and social play.
This is the first year that the music program has been back at Palumbo after a brief hiatus. The school has an itinerary music teacher that works with each section of the orchestra once a week. Orchestra students also have a class one period a day. There are currently 40 students in the orchestra.
“The music program at Palumbo has been a learning experience for me,” says junior Kayla Gonzales. “Last year, the orchestra was going through a few rough patches. Our teacher had gotten sick and from there things just started changing. Both the students and the school overcame it though. The orchestra continues to grow and we have a great teacher in Mr. Jordan.”
Senior Travis Goffredo continues to excel in the music program at Palumbo.
“There was a time where the music program died here,” Goffredo said. “I decided to get with the itinerary music teacher to try to keep the music program going. I would conduct two days a week. We were doing everything to make sure the program would survive. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.
“I hope my drive in music has helped influence other students in the program at the school. Music is a huge part of life; I play all percussion instruments. When I go to college that’s what I would like to major in. I’ve done a lot of things in music for Palumbo as well as outside of the school.”
Orchestra teacher James Jordan said it’s Goffredo’s passion for music and academic excellence that has helped his chances for getting into a good college.
“Travis has been invited to audition to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia,” Jordan said. “That’s really a honor for any student. Curtis is the most prestigious music conservatory in the world; it rivals Julliard. Students who attend Curtis don’t have to pay tuition because they earn a fellowship. We’re all hoping Travis does really well and gets accepted there.”
In addition to the music program, Palumbo offers Advanced Placement courses including literature, statistics, chemistry, studio art, biology, and psychology. The school has achieved AYP every year since its inception.
For Yahana Gheberhiwet, ceramics is one of the classes at Palumbo that she enjoys taking.
“I always wanted to learn about ceramics,” Gheberhiwet said. “When I would go out and see something beautiful that was made, I would always want to know how they did it. In ceramics, we learn everything from texture to designs. This is just something that I like to do. I don’t want to major in art. When I enter college in the fall, I want my major to be biology.”
Philadelphia Magazine ranked Palumbo as No. 4 for best public high schools in Philadelphia. Last year, the U.S. News and World report ranked the school No. 21 for best high schools in Pennsylvania and Palumbo also received the Jefferson Silver award winner for community service. The school was also the “Get Schooled” attendance challenge East Coast champions in 2012.
“This is one of the best schools for academic excellence,” said sophomore Kamea Morris. “Everything we learn here is preparing us for our future. The curriculum at times can be tough, but I think it will be all worth it in the end. Nobody wants to go to college unprepared. I’m looking forward to college, but right now I’m just enjoying my time at Palumbo.”
Over the years, students at Palumbo were accepted to over 100 different colleges and universities across the country, including Morehouse, Spelman, NYU, Temple, Villanova, University of Pittsburgh, DePaul, Syracuse, Florida A&M University, Howard, University of San Francisco, Drexel, Penn State, and Saint Joseph’s University.
“This is my last year at Palumbo,” says senior Lachae’ Solomon. “Some of the colleges I’m currently looking into include Hampton, Spelman, Temple, and North Carolina A&T. I want to do something in social work. Palumbo is a good school, especially academic wise. The school is very diverse; we’re like a family here. I’m going to miss Palumbo, but I’m thankful for the great times that I had here.”