Pittsburgh Brashear seniors celebrate their aims for the future

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Pittsburgh Brashear High School senior Cassandra Coban walked to the microphone on the stage in the school gym, said her name and announced she will be going to Community College of Allegheny County to study nursing.

She received loud applause and cheers from her classmates.

So did all of the other seniors who individually crossed the stage and announced their plans at what, in its second year, is becoming an annual event at Brashear: College and Career Declaration Day.

"This was a day for us to be proud of where we go," said Cassandra, of Brookline, who -- like her classmates -- was wearing a white T-shirt with a school bull and black lettering proclaiming, "I have a plan."

Brashear is trying to build a culture in which students are ready for college and careers when they graduate.

At Wednesday's ceremony, plans for about 275 of the 332 seniors were announced, including entering the workforce, joining the military or attending post-secondary education.

PG graphic: Plans for Brashear's class of 2013
(Click image for larger version)

Of the group, 208 are eligible to receive up to $40,000 in Pittsburgh Promise scholarships for post-secondary education because they meet various requirements, including earning a high school grade-point average of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.

For Jamir Guinn, who lives in Sheraden and attended Langley last year, the Promise is making it possible for him to study welding at Triangle Tech.

"That's the only way I can get through college. If I didn't have this, I don't know what I'd do," he said.

From the beginning of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships with the class of 2008 through the class of 2012, 599 Brashear graduates have received Promise scholarships. Over the years, the maximum awards and the requirements have increased.

About a third of the Brashear students who received scholarships in those five years chose CCAC. Other top choices included the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University.

For this year's class, CCAC is the most popular choice by far, with 119 students naming it. The second-largest choice is California University of Pennsylvania, with 17 students.

About 50 choices -- including schools, unions, military and the workforce -- were announced.

For the Promise from 2008 through 2012, Brashear is second only to Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, where 807 students have received Promise scholarships. Citywide, 4,071 students have received such scholarships.

Some students who meet the requirements and are considered "Promise ready" don't get scholarships because they go out of state, join the military or don't continue on to post-secondary education.

Throughout the district, schools are trying to boost the number of students who are eligible for the Promise.

Of the class of 2012 citywide, 57.7 percent had grade-point averages of 2.5 or higher, according to an A+ Schools report.

The idea behind Declaration Day is to give students academic recognition, taking a page from the hoopla at colleges around the signing of star high school athletes.

"It's a great way to see where everyone's going and what their future holds. It's also nice to be celebrated," said senior Megan Falce of Brookline, who plans to go to Point Park University.

At the ceremony, there were cheers, applause and plenty of high-fives from teachers to go around.

Senior Amy Broadnax of Brookline, who plans to go to CCAC, explained the enthusiasm this way: "We're all just proud of each other."

After the ceremony, students were invited to do their own signing on a wall on the first floor.

They earlier dipped their hands in paint and made colorful handprints. They were able to sign them Wednesday and write the names of their college choices, leaving their mark behind to inspire future students.

Juniors sat in the stands, watching the ceremony they may be part of next year.

This was the first year that students who used to go to the now-closed Pittsburgh Langley were reassigned to Brashear.

Senior Jordyn Cunningham of the West End transferred from Langley but has a sense of belonging.

"Now I know everyone," said Jordyn, who plans to go to Cal U.

With the applause and cheers, she said, "I felt good. ... They're also encouraging me."

No ceremony for high school seniors would be complete without some inspirational words.

In this case, the words came from former National Football League player Rasheed Marshall, a 1999 Brashear graduate; Penny Semaia, assistant athletic director for student life at Pitt; and Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise.

Mr. Marshall told the students to choose their friends correctly and make the right decisions.

Mr. Semaia urged the class to follow three R's: reflection, refocus and relish the moments.

Mr. Ghubril praised the class and then said, "A lot of people have high expectations, high hopes, but they don't reach them. ... Your feet will follow your eyes. Be careful what you have your eyes on."

Now the seniors are eager for graduation next month.

"It felt good. I can't wait to walk across the stage at graduation," Jamir said.

education - neigh_city

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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