One of the biggest new investments in Mayor Kenney’s Fiscal Year 21 Budget and Five Year Plan is the Octavius Catto Scholarship, which will help Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) students pursue and finish their degrees.

This new scholarship would help an estimated 6,500 full-time students complete their associate degrees over the next five years. In his annual budget address to Philadelphia City Council, the Mayor highlighted two young women who would benefit from the scholarship. 

Learn more about these determined young adults, representing the Catto Scholars who can achieve the American dream with our city’s support. 

A better life through education

Lylia is currently a senior at George Washington High School, a Community School in Northeast Philadelphia. She plans to go to CCP in the fall.

Lylia and her family emigrated from Algeria six years ago. They chose Philadelphia over other U.S. cities because of the many colleges and universities in the area. Their goal was to find more educational opportunities and a better life for Lylia and her older brother.

In spite of the challenges that she faced in high school as an English learner and during her mother’s battle with a serious illness, Lylia remained driven and resilient and benefitted from the Community School’s supportive programs. 

When Caitlyn Boyle, the Community School Coordinator at George Washington High School, brought a program called SPEAK Mentoring to the school as a new resource for immigrant students, Lylia was among the first to join and is now the group’s vice president. Lylia’s leadership role even took her to Harvard University last spring to present at an alumni conference last spring. 

Lylia now speaks three languages, including English, and will graduate in June. She also has an internship with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health this spring. She wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps and study medicine. Her brother is now at Temple after transferring from CCP, and Lylia hopes to follow a similar path into Temple’s pre-med program.

As a new student at CCP, Lylia could be eligible for tuition support for up to three years, as well as enhanced career coaching and advising, and $1,500 per semester for food, transportation, and books. Together, these supports will help her realize her and her family’s dream of achieving a better life through education.

“I feel proud of myself and excited to start a new journey,” said Lylia. “And the Catto Scholarship is an amazing idea. Some students might be scared to even think about college because of how much it costs, but now more students will be able to go.” 

Making it count

Brittany lives in Southwest Philadelphia and is studying Business and Spanish at CCP. She put her education on hold after her daughter, Elizabeth was born a few years ago and is excited to be back in the classroom. She hopes to transfer to Temple after graduating from CCP with her Associate degree.

Elizabeth is enrolled in PHLpreK – the City’s free, quality pre-K program funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax – and goes to school across the street from CCP at Spring Garden Academy. Brittany finds it easier to focus on her studies knowing that her daughter is in a safe and high-quality environment.

Nevertheless, Brittany works two full-time jobs to support herself and her daughter. She is actively searching for scholarships because she knows that every dollar she saves now today can go toward her family’s future and her continuing education. 

In the proposed Catto Scholars program, Brittany and other eligible students currently enrolled at CCP would get funding to cover any remaining tuition fees after financial aid and scholarships were applied. 

“This scholarship could potentially open a door for a lot of people who are coming back to school,” said Brittany. 

She also knows it will help her classmates stay in school long enough to complete their degree. “I have seen a lot of people come to school for just one year, and not come back because they can’t afford it. I have a friend who just dropped out because he had to work and had to focus on supporting his family, which is understandable.” 

While Brittany can relate to the challenges faced by many college students, she is determined to complete her degree. “I’m gonna make this count,” she says. 

With support from the Catto Scholarship, our city can raise Philadelphia’s college completion rate and help students like Brittany and Lylia pursue their educational ambitions. 

Every year, thousands of Philadelphia students go to college in search of new opportunities and a better life for themselves and their families. Let’s help them make it count. 

This bold and new anti-poverty initiative will make Community College of Philadelphia tuition-free for eligible full-time students and drastically improve college access.