Hey Friends. As many of you know, I am a teacher at Pittsburgh Perry High School. Each day, I am fortunate enough to hang out with some of Pittsburgh’s most amazing young people. If these young folks are the future of Pittsburgh, we are a very lucky city. Seriously, they are great. Every teacher knows that there are some students who stand out along the way and over the years.
Kevonna is one of those students.
I met Kevonna two years ago when she was in an AP Language class I was teaching. It didn't take me long to realize that Kevonna was the kind of person who pushed through anything to make the most of her opportunities. And unfortunately, as life goes, she had to push through more than some others. Half way through that year, her house burnt to the ground. Her family lost everything and was forced to move across the city. She barely blinked. She would get on a bus for an hour each day, traverse the city in time to arrive at Perry by 7:11 for first period. She kept smiling, kept being a good friend to her classmates, and kept getting good grades. In fact, her grades were good enough to win her the honor of Valedictorian of her class last June and an acceptance to Temple University.
For her, the hard work was paying off.
Somewhere in the midst of that 11th grade year, I started telling Kevonna that she floats. She asked what I meant, and I told her that she always seems to rise to the top. There has been plenty of reasons for her to give in to the weight and sink, but she continues to rise up. In fact, on our school talent night, Kevonna sang "Rise Up" by Andra Day and it almost made me tear up. She really will keep rising, and she'll do it "1000 times again" as the song says.
Two weeks ago, I got the kind of news that makes me want to scream. Kevonna's financial aid at Temple covers all but $3500 of her semester's tuition ($7000 per year). Temple will not let her sign up for her Spring classes until she can pay $3500 dollars. In fact, they will not even release her first semester's transcripts without that money. She has lived at the financial aid office over the last month trying to exhaust every option, and it seems that there are none. We called everyone we knew who might be able to help, but we are learning that it is late to get that kind of money. She needs to get a private loan to cover the rest of her tuition. Unfortunately, no one in her amazing family has the positive credit to co-sign for a loan. She has all "A's" and "B's," which is pretty remarkable for a first generation college student in a new city. She is succeeding in every way that she can. I am too much of an optimist to allow Kevonna to come home midway through her freshman year over $3500.
I asked Kevonna how personal she wanted me to be in this appeal. She said this: "You can be personal, but not too personal :-) Talk about how I've basically struggled financially my whole life. The fire, and the fact that I didn't let it hurt my grades. Tell them that I'm pushing harder. I really want to pursue college so I can do something better for myself in life. "
I wish I could cut a check for $7000 and help Kevonna figure out her scholarships for next year. She is that kind of person. She will not fail. I'm confident of that. In fact, she has overcome harder things than tuition bills. She will find a way to overcome this.
But I don't want her to have to do this one on her own. She'll float, but this time I would like for all of us to show Kevonna that we can throw her a life jacket. We have the chance to help her ease the load a little.
Temple is fortunate to have such an amazing young person on their campus. Pittsburgh should be proud of Kevonna. Her Perry family certainly is.
If you can help, it would be great. Our first goal is to raise the $3500 needed to register for Spring classes. When we get there, we will keep going to try to pay the $7000 for the whole year. We are hoping to transfer the money from here directly to Temple. Help us tell Kevonna that we believe in her. And that we are all cheering.
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