Thanks to the Fishtown Neighbors Association and Friends of Penn Treaty School, one lucky high school senior at Penn Treaty School will be the recipient of a crowd-funded $5,000 scholarship to benefit his or her post-secondary education. Both groups say they hope to make the scholarship an annual affair.
“Penn Treaty is Fishtown’s high school,” said Stefan Zajic, an FNA at-large board member who helped organize the scholarship. “Of the four elementary schools that feed into it, three are in Fishtown’s boundaries.”
To meet the criteria for the scholarship, the student must be a high school senior graduating from Penn Treaty School in 2021; have a family income below thresholds used by Philadelphia Futures Sponsor-a-Scholar; have GPA of 3.0 or higher, with the possible exception if the student’s grades in junior and senior year are higher and are accompanied by a letter of recommendation; and be accepted to an accredited post-secondary education institution, which includes four-year colleges, two-year colleges, community colleges, trade schools or other accredited training/apprenticeship programs.
“It’s been a long process of building a relationship between the school and the FNA over time,” said Brooke Hoffman, a co-founder and co-president of the Friends of Penn Treaty Group. She’s also an education professor at Rowan University.
Hoffman said Zajic reached out to her group to see if there was a way to get more involved with the local high school.
“He reached out and said he was interested in collaborating,” she said. “We sent over a list of things we’d like to see now or later.”
Eventually, according to Hoffman, the two settled on creating a scholarship for one deserving student who might be the first in their family to attend college.
“Research says that [for] first generation college students, it’s not about money inhibiting the costs so much as it’s about knowledge of processes,” said Hoffman. “You give them a scholarship and that is one way to ease that load. They often don’t know they have to pay for books or that they’re so expensive. Things like that.”
Hoffman said that the criteria might sound a bit restrictive, but they in fact fit a large number of students at Penn Treaty.
“That may sound exclusive but it’s not to a large degree,” said Hoffman. “That is the majority of our population.”
The scholarship was created in part for a desire to help older children in the Fishtown community.
Often times, according to Hoffman, Zajic and FNA president Jon Geeting, efforts to help local public schools tend to be centered around elementary schools in particular.
“Most Friends of Groups in Philadelphia are for elementary schools,” said Hoffman. “In terms of civic support, I think this is pretty rare. I’m so amazed that our neighborhood organization would do something like this.”
Zajic said that Penn Treaty often gets “overlooked” by the community.
“But they have great kids there,” he said. “I think supporting them is a great thing to do and certainly there’s very talented kids there.”
“There’s more interest in the elementary schools these days,” said Geeting, “but we wanted to work more with Friends of Penn Treaty in doing something for the older kids, too.”
Geeting also said that supporting local public schools was important for maintaining “the strength of the neighborhood.”
“We’ve had a tough year with kids not being able to be physically in schools,” said Geeting. “The public schools are really a foundation of the local education system and we need to put the same effort into lifting up the high school students as we are with the elementary schools.”
According to Zajic, the funds will be disbursed directly to the winning student’s education institution.
The School District of Philadelphia said it’s “always pleased to see individuals and organizations committed to supporting our students and school communities,” according to a statement provided by spokesperson Monica Lewis to the Star. “Gestures like this are true investments that result in creating opportunities for future leaders in Philadelphia and beyond.”
As of right now, the FNA has about half of the funds necessary to give out the scholarship. To donate, visit fishtown.org and click the purple banner at the top of the page.
“We’re a little over halfway there but we still need people to contribute,” said Geeting. “This is all crowdfunded not grant-funded. We’re counting on neighbors to kick in and we’ve been really excited to see the response so far.”