700 Freshmen at George Washington High School Make Commitment to Complete in 4 Years at ‘Reverse Graduation’

Aramark to match commitment by helping to grow the hospitality workforce pipeline and exposing students to future careers
Oct 13, 2015 4:10 PM ET
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In 1970, a joint report from Princeton University and the Brookings Institution found that there were 3% fewer tenth graders than ninth graders; and by 2014, that share had risen to 18%. Ninth grade has increasingly become a “bottleneck” for students; as such, George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia called on its 700 freshmen to make a public commitment to themselves, their families, and their communities, to graduate in four years. George Washington hosted its ‘Reverse Graduation’ for 9th graders Oct. 2, during which each freshman, dressed in cap and gown, crossed the stage and promised to make the necessary personal investments to complete their secondary education.

George Washington High School employs the career academy model, as instituted by Philadelphia Academies, Inc. (PAI) in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. Created in 1969 by PAI, career academies enable students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme in a highly personalized learning community. Through their academy, students are exposed to a multitude of careers and opportunities, industry skills, and potential employers by way of classroom speakers, site visits, job shadowing, and internships.    

Joining the family and community members gathered to support the freshmen was global food, facilities and uniform industry leader Aramark (NYSE ARMK), which provided a three year, $300,000 grant to PAI to build a hospitality industry pipeline starting with George Washington’s Hotel, Restaurant, Travel and Tourism (HRTT) academy. 

“With this support,” said PAI President Lisa Nutter, ”Aramark is making a commitment to help Philadelphia Academies strengthen the workforce pipeline into the hospitality industry; and by making a human capital investment, we are all making a vow to empower our young people with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.”

“Educators are increasingly focusing on the ninth grade as the year that determines whether a young person will move on or drop out of school. More and more of us are realizing that it’s the make or break year,” said George Washington principal Gene Jones. “With our Reverse Graduation, our students are pledging to go against what has become the statistical norm. And with the support and partnership of Aramark, we are highlighting the options that exist when you finish the educational path you started upon.”

George Washington High School is primed to be one of the city’s leading models for the career academy; and is one of the most diverse in the Greater Philadelphia region, with a demographic makeup of 37% white; 27% African American; 14% Hispanic; and 57 languages spoken. The 2014-15 school year was the first for the school implementing the All-Academy model, during which 83% of freshman passed through to the 10th grade. Additionally, George Washington boasted an 86% graduation rate, with 52% of graduating seniors having a 3.0 gpa or above.  The Reverse Graduation is the student’s formal entry into the freshman academy.

Aramark’s partnership with Philadelphia Academies will further enable the school’s success.  Hospitality is the Philadelphia region's third-largest industry, with more than 65,000 hospitality-related jobs in Philadelphia County and 242,000 in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).   Preparing today’s high school students for a future in this growing and vibrant workforce is vital to the city and region’s growth.  The corporation looks to use best practices gained from its investment in George Washington’s HRTT Academy to improve the City of Philadelphia’s other hotel, restaurant, travel and tourism high school programs, along with sharing them with hospitality academies across the country. George Washington’s HRTT academy boasts 220 students and is the largest in the City of Philadelphia.

About Philadelphia Academies, Inc.:  A nonprofit youth development provider, Philadelphia Academies, Inc. (PAI) uses its 45+ years of programming expertise and implementation best practices to support the All Academy High School initiative with partner schools and the School District of Philadelphia. The model is one of transformation, as it successfully prepares young people for employment and post-secondary education. This is done by reforming the way leaders approach education, positively altering school cultures and structures to better engage young people, and connecting book learning with real world opportunities so that more young people can be exposed to industry expectations, and build the skills needed to compete in the global workforce. To learn more, visit www.academiesinc.org and follow @AcademiesInc on Twitter.

About Aramark: Aramark (NYSE: ARMK) is in the customer service business across food, facilities and uniforms, wherever people work, learn, recover, and play. United by a passion to serve, our more than 270,000 employees deliver experiences that enrich and nourish the lives of millions of people in 21 countries around the world every day. Aramark is recognized among the Most Admired Companies by FORTUNE and the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute. Learn more at www.Aramark.com/abcday or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter