Every morning before 6:00 am, Corey White leaves his Southwest Philadelphia home and begins a 40-minute bus ride to Academy at Palumbo High School.
What some 14-year-olds might see as a burden, Corey and his family see as a blessing.
Corey spent his first three days of ninth grade at William Sayre High School in West Philadelphia.
“There’s no comparison,” says Corey’s mother, Robin White. “[Palumbo] is cleaner and friendlier. There are no uniforms. Most importantly, we wanted a challenge for Corey.”
It took intervention from above to make that possible.
Corey went to Harrity for most of his elementary years, then started seventh grade at Shaw. After a series of incidents, however, Corey’s parents removed him from the school and enrolled him at Huey.
Because of his strong academic record, and due to the scarcity of spots remaining in seventh grade, Corey was skipped ahead to eighth grade.
To him, it was no big deal.
Corey already had friends. Academically, he says that eighth grade “was basically seventh grade stuff all over again.”
It became a big deal, however, when Corey’s parents and grandmother learned he had missed out on the high school selection process and was slated to attend Sayre, a struggling small neighborhood school.
Corey’s family appealed to State Representative James Roebuck. Working directly with District officials, Roebuck was able to facilitate Corey’s admission to Palumbo, a selective admission school, via what is referred to as a “direct admit.”
“This is not a new process,” says Roebuck of the longstanding practice that reserves some seats at selective schools for students who have prominent advocates and who might otherwise not be admitted due to unforeseen complications. “I am a product of a Philadelphia public high school, and this is something my parents tried to negotiate for me.”
Corey’s family had never even heard of Palumbo, which was established at 10th and Catherine three years ago as an option for students who didn’t want to travel to Central or Girls High.
“My first day, I was like ‘It’s gonna be the same as any other school,’” says Corey.
That morning, he got on the bus going in the wrong direction. It was noon by the time his mother eventually dropped him off at Palumbo.
At the end of his first week, Corey was still feeling overwhelmed.
“[At Palumbo], they give so much homework that Corey doesn’t have time for anything else,” says Robin. “In a way, I feel bad for the kids.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that she regrets pushing for Corey’s admission to the school.
Robin had Corey when she was 13 years old. She subsequently dropped out of eighth grade at Thomas Middle School and is still struggling to get her GED.
For her, it’s imperative that her oldest son has every opportunity – even if it means badgering her elected officials and sacrificing family time for Corey’s homework.