In order to be eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise, students must earn a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average and maintain a minimum attendance record of 90 percent. Students must also be a resident of Pittsburgh and a student in the district continuously since at least the 9th grade.
“Life is a learning process. If you want to write the story of your life, always make good decisions,” said District 2 School Board Representative Thomas Sumpter. “Right now you have the opportunity to take advantage of a free education.”
Serving as the event’s keynote speaker was Pedro Noguera, an education consultant who has been working with the district on improving student achievement and reducing racial disparities.
“Education is the one thing that can never be taken away from you. It’s the best thing you can do to invest in yourself,” Noguera said. “If you’re willing to work hard, you can even top people who’ve been given everything their whole life.”
Noguera used the importance of education throughout history among slaves and in the civil rights struggle to inspire the students. He also shared how education elevated him out of the housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up.
“The fact that I grew up in the projects doesn’t define who I am today. I remember when I was growing up neither of my parents graduated from high school, so they couldn’t help me with my college applications,” Noguera said. “But they did give me one thing; they gave me a belief in myself.”
In line with the day’s theme, the students participated in a workshop about how to brand themselves. Through this workshop, they learned not to internalize and perpetuate society’s negative stereotypes regarding Black males.
“I’m happy to get this opportunity,” said Calen Nunley Thompson, a Brashear High School student. “Every Black man, we get stereotyped into thinking we’re all the same, but I need to take that and let it motivate me, because all I need to do is go to school and I’ll be able to reach my goals.”
Moving forward, the mentors said they would like to have continued interaction with the students. Others also suggested setting up a system to monitor the students’ progress toward being Promise-ready.
“There was so much more energy in these young men leaving than when they first came. So there are already some increments of change,” said Superintendent Linda Lane. “But this is a marathon, not a sprint.”