He said the change would reflect evolving student interest and the fact that the school, which offers culinary electives, was not truly a culinary school. Under the new name, the school hopes to have a dental lab, nursing program, and X-ray certification program, Williams said.
The recent rise in students pursuing postsecondary education is in part because of the nonprofit 12+ program at the school that provides college-age mentors and workshops to interested seniors. Twenty-five of those seniors with college acceptance letters, including Javiel, participated in the program. Now in its second year, the venture has expanded from its first class of nine seniors. The program, funded through grants and donations, for the first time gave out three $500 scholarships to Kensington Culinary students at Thursday's ceremony. In the fall, it will move into its first real office space.
"12+ is a godsend," Williams said.
Raymond John, 26, president and one of the cofounders of 12+, designed and implemented its curriculum. Students attend weekly workshops on topics such as taking the SATs, preparing personal statements for college applications, and making the transition from high school to college. More than two dozen volunteers help run the program.
"We didn't think that someone should not have the opportunity to pursue higher education," said John, who graduated in 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania and who always knew college would be in his future.
Students in the program are on free or reduced lunch plans, so application and SAT fees were waived, John said. Twenty-four of the 12+ students will attend two- or four-year colleges in Pennsylvania and one is going into the Army. The students will pursue degrees as varied as mortuary science, design, and teaching. Program leaders say they hope to expand to three other Kensington-area high schools by fall 2013.
The group is the work of Penn grad Abraham Kwon, 25, who, while volunteering with a West Philadelphia High School debate team, found that not all seniors considered furthering their education after high school. The program, originally called One Little Did, was formed in July 2010 with the help of three of Kwon's friends at Penn and initially operated out of living rooms and coffee shops.
Kwon said that within the last year, he had seen 12+ gain traction at the school, with ninth graders inquiring whether they would be able to participate. He said the program was able to succeed because of support from school administrators and faculty.
"They're the ones who really put their blood, sweat, and tears into the students and make it very easy to work with the students," said Kwon, a lawyer.
Recent 12 + fund-raising efforts allowed for the $2,000 purchase of 20 computers, refurbished desktops, and laptops from the group Team Children, said Barbara Cram-Crabtree, a member of the 12+ board of directors who focuses on fund-raising and development. The computers will be set up in the new Kensington office, allowing students to research college programs and scholarships online and complete online applications, she said.
Cram-Crabtree said she joined the organization after hearing about Kwon's students, who did not have all the opportunities needed to pursue higher education.
"It's such a waste of good minds who are going to be hurt by not investing in them," Cram-Crabtree said.
As a high school freshman, Tiffany Sims, 18, was prone to cutting class and didn't feel motivated to complete her work. She transferred to Kensington Culinary during her sophomore year, looking to receive more academic support. At Kensington Culinary, she became an honor roll student and is a 12+ scholarship winner.
This summer, Sims will participate in a seven-credit program at La Salle University and hopes to study graphic design in the fall.
"I made it," Sims said. "It's another good step in my life."
Contact Dara McBride at 215-854-4904 or firstname.lastname@example.org