February 3, 2020

West Chester University to Host 45 High School Students of Color from Philadelphia Public Schools to Cultivate Much-Needed Teachers

PA Department of Education logoPA Department of Education & School District of Philadelphia Partner with WCU to Diversify Teacher Workforce

Addressing a critical shortage of teachers of color, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has selected West Chester University (WCU) as one of its seven high-profile partners in an initiative designed to diversify the Commonwealth’s pool of educators by identifying and recruiting promising high school students of color from the School District of Philadelphia. As part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s pilot program “Aspire to Educate,” West Chester University’s College of Education and Social Work will host 45 high school juniors, who are students of color from Parkway West High School in Philadelphia, in a full day of immersion designed to answer the question “Why Teach?” The hands-on symposium will be held at WCU on Tuesday, February 4, 9:15 – 2:15 p.m., Sykes Student Union Ball Room.

From sessions on how to apply to college to how to complete financial aid forms to student teaching in Philadelphia, the high school students will be encouraged to explore the career of teaching in a city that needs their leadership. Highlighting the day will be a panel featuring African-American male educators who will have a candid discussion about why they have selected the field of teaching as a career and why the high school students need to follow their example (1:45-2:15 p.m.).

The interactive day will also include a high school student share & feedback session (9:45-10:00 a.m.); program presentations (10:45-11:30 a.m.); campus tour & learning stop (12:30-1:00 p.m.); and much more.

About the “Aspire to Educate” Pilot Program

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has awarded $490,000 to West Chester University and six other partner universities and organizations as part of a new initiative with the School District of Philadelphia to cultivate and diversify the city’s educator pool. Under the program, the school district will identify at least 20 current juniors or seniors who excel academically and have expressed an interest in becoming teachers. From the time they join the program, students will be mentored through the Center for Black Educator Development, an organization founded by former Philadelphia teacher and principal Sharif El-Mekki to recruit more students of color into the teaching field.

The district and students will also work with the universities to develop specific plans for each student to enroll at one of the schools. Once enrolled, students will receive financial assistance through a combination of free or reduced tuition offered by the partnering institution.

Students will continue to be mentored as they progress through their teacher preparation programs so they have the support that they need to thrive. Upon graduating, students will be encouraged to return to the School District of Philadelphia and teach in the city’s most high-need areas.


The department expects to expand the Aspire to Educate program into other high-need areas of the state in the coming years.

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