This was Philadelphia Futures' fifth annual ceremony to honor high school graduates, and their first time honoring graduates of higher education.
Debra Kahn, executive director of Philadelphia Futures, said that the goal of ``Sponsor a Scholar'' is to get students to college, so to be able to honor graduates in the program who had completed higher education was significant.
``These are not the superstars who would have made it anyway. These are the people who could have gone either way, but went the right path because of intervention,'' said Kahn.
Philadelphia Futures is an educational consulting firm at Broad and Locust streets.
Its ``Sponsor a Scholar'' program allows lower-income students to connect with a mentor and a financial sponsor during their high school years. The financial sponsor provides $6,000 for college expenses, and the mentor provides friendship and guidance through the process.
Savoy's first mentor had to leave the program to finish medical school, but a married couple soon volunteered.
``To have them in my corner really helped broaden my view on college. After I looked at the colleges they suggested, I started thinking maybe I could get in,'' said Savoy.
Savoy, 18, will graduate in the top of his class from Bartram High School and study business at Morgan State University in Maryland in the fall.
Tisha Bernard, 22, was one of the ``Sponsor a Scholar'' college graduates honored last night. She earned a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Pittsburgh.
Bernard was one of the first to join the program when it started in 1990. She said that without Philadelphia Futures she would have made it to college, but staying there would have been a much greater challenge.
``My family did not go to college, so Philadelphia Futures helped me get through the first year with all the forms and requirements,'' she said.
Kahn said all students selected for the program are first-generation college hopefuls, so all mentors should be college graduates to better help with the process.
Rickia Reid, 18, will graduate valedictorian from Strawberry Mansion High School and study chemical engineering at Lehigh University in the fall. She said the most significant part of the program was the relationship with her mentor.
``Without the mentor I don't think I'd be as strong. I'd probably be lost. This is like my second family,'' said Reid.
Kahn said each mentor stays with the student for five years, and in most cases strong friendships are established.
``At the end of the time, it's hard to know which side got the most out of it.''
Gertrude DeVase, a 1991 graduate of Wharton Business School, has mentored with the program since the fall of 1994 when her student was in 10th grade.
``It's a good feeling when you can take an impressionable young child and be an influence in their life,'' said DeVase.