The Philadelphia tri-state area — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware — contains 101 colleges. Philadelphia itself has thousands of students who spend their 20s in the city. While the city is an excellent place to grow and learn in, after graduation, students tend to move away. The city is notoriously underfunded and overcrowded public schools scare off graduates when they’re ready to start families. As many graduates know, the chances of being able to send your kid to a great public high school here … well, they’re pretty slim.
Instead of sticking around to try and raise children in row homes next to their ex-group partners, recent college grads are seeking out housing far away from the Market-Frankford Line. They’re all buying hondas and moving to the suburbs, leaving Philadelphia with a 24 percent population of residents with a four-year degree. While the abundance of colleges in the tri-state area make it pretty clear that Philadelphia knows the value of college attainment for the workforce, there’s a clear discrepancy between students attaining degrees in Philadelphia and Philadelphia retaining these students as residents.
Drexel, like all businesses (technically, a “non-profit”) in the Philadelphia area, is very aware of this fact. Knowing that Philadelphia probably won’t be retaining most of the graduates the school produces, the school has taken an interest in making the city a better place for young families.
This fall, Drexel’s Dornsife Center will welcome one such public school that causes this problem: a Philadelphia partnership middle school — effectively bringing the Philadelphia public school system to campus. The Science Leadership Academy Middle School is part of a new, innovative district magnet school in The School District of Philadelphia. If they’re accepted after an initial application process, these students will spend their middle school careers “rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship,” as described by SLA’s site. They’ll be learning by completing projects and working with subjects hands-on to demonstrate understanding, rather than taking tests.
In Drexel’s mission for civic engagement, the opening of SLA in Dornsife represents the community’s revitalization effort — an effort to build up Mantua and Powelton and help improve public school options for families in these neighborhoods. Hopefully, it will be a step in improving the public school system and eventually adding to the number of families who would like to remain in the city.