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College prep program wins much-needed funds

Philadelphia Business Journal


Central High School in Olney won a $5,000 grant in Beneficial Foundation's School Challenge that will be put toward some much-needed classroom technology.

Central, and more specifically a group of junior-year students who are registered in the school's advanced college preparatory International Baccalaureate program, won the grant after submitting an initial proposal last fall. Beneficial named Central one of nine finalists, which were then asked to create a video that captured the need and plans for the money, if won.

The videos were posted online for a month-long period, and the winners were determined by votes. Central's video received 523,254 votes, and the nine videos received nearly 1.5 million votes. Central won first place in the 9th-12th grade category, and Our Lady of Calvary School took first place in the 4th-8th grade category. But Central's International Baccalaureate coordinator Jonathan Fabrey said the value of the grant goes beyond its nominal value.

"It definitely helps in taking ownership of the education — applying for the grant and thinking about what's the best way that I could use money in my classroom," Fabrey said. "The fact that teachers who know the students and are running the programs get to decide and implement how the money will be spent supports a sense of autonomy and effectiveness, because I get to make this decision to benefit my students in the best way possible."

And in the same vein, the students in the class were given the opportunity to take control of their own education and the supplies that could further it. After Central's proposal, which asked for funding for its "Creativity, Action and Service" program — a facet of the IB curriculum that provides opportunity for arts activities and creative service projects — the students were informed that they were chosen and of the task of creating the video.

Fabrey said they began brainstorming different ways to represent their class and IB at Central through the movie. He added that the project strengthened camaraderie among the cohort of the 27 students in the program.

"This was a way for the junior class to really bond and focus on one particular goal together," Fabrey said. "They were all in on it, everyone was excited about it and during the voting phase even more so, as they were coming together to support themselves."

He added that when it came to promoting the video via social media, the students worked to represent themselves fully.

"They didn't just say, 'Like our video because we're Central,' they said, 'Like it because we're going to use it to benefit the entire school,'" Fabrey said.

Fabrey noted that the new equipment couldn't come any sooner — both his, and the classroom of a fellow IB teacher, are without a working computer, in what he referred to as a "rigorous class" and an "expensive program to run." The school has one of five IB schools in Philadelphia. But the program, at a price tag of $50,000 a year, is something that colleges and universities look favorably upon, and students are often able to gain college credit, or sometimes admittance to college at a sophomore level.

Fabrey said they initially planned to use the funding for a SMART board, projector or other types of audiovisual equipment. Now, they're considering other options such as iPods and laptops, but he said two desktop computers and a printer will definitely be purchased.

Bob Juliano, vice president of community outreach for Beneficial, said they chose the finalists based on the creativity, educational value, long-term impact, strategic thinking and feasibility of the proposals within the $5,000 budget. He added that the challenge was a great way to further the educational outreach of the Beneficial Foundation, which has supported various nonprofits in the past.

"The challenge was truly a manifestation of the bank's educational mission, and we were thrilled to see so many share this passion with us by the number of votes that were cast," Juliano said.

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