Penn awards college scholarships to West Philly youth

In 1987, the Philadelphia Daily News published an article about Eric Franklin, an ambitious young man who, in spite of being homeless for most of his life, was preparing to attend college.

Franklin’s story sparked discussion among members of Penn Volunteers in Public Service (Penn VIPS), who in turn established a scholarship fund that would aim to alleviate the financial burden of higher education for graduating West Philadelphia high school seniors. Since the scholarship program was first established in 1992, Penn VIPS scholarships have helped more than 100 students from Overbrook, Parkway West, West Philadelphia, University City, Bartram, and Sayre high schools pay for non-tuition expenses such as books, supplies, and health insurance.

This year, Penn VIPS awarded a series of $1,000 scholarships to five local students who have worked to make a difference in their communities.

“For any student, it is no mean feat to succeed academically at the university level—even without the added pressure of financial worries,” says Isabel Sampson-Mapp, director of Penn VIPS. “We hope to choose students who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to both higher education and community service.”

Now in its 23rd year, the Penn VIPS scholarship program brings together the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships and Penn’s Business Services Division in order to conduct fundraising activities, manage the committee, and select awardees.

Each of the scholarship recipients, who were presented their awards at a ceremony at the University City Sheraton in early June, has maintained a 2.5 grade point average or higher, demonstrated a history of community service, and has been accepted into an accredited college or university for the fall semester.

This year’s Penn VIPS scholarship recipients include West Philadelphia High School graduate Khristian Baldwin, who will attend Mansfield University of Pennsylvania; Bartram High School graduate Shidea Graham, who will attend Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania; Sayre High School graduate Basil Hasan, who will attend Penn State University; Overbrook High School graduate Aaron Turner, who will attend the Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and Parkway West High School graduate Asia White, who will attend Cazenovia College.

The Penn VIPS program also provides a seminar to help its scholarship recipients with the college planning process, as well as dormitory room necessities gathered from the PennMOVES program, such as microwaves, TVs, irons, ironing boards, trash cans, and mini-refrigerators.