by Katie McCabe
On Friday afternoon, more than 500 high school graduates gathered in Center City for Mayor Nutter's "Top of the Class" high school graduation celebration. Seniors with at least a B+ average were invited to march in a four-block procession from Pine Street up Broad Street to City Hall.
The procession was led by Mayor Nutter and drum lines from the Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts and High School of the Future. The students marched in matching blue T-shirts that displayed the phrase “I did it.” Nutter, District officials, teachers, and other education advocates also filled the crowd, wearing their own shirts that read: “And I helped.”
During the procession, graduates reflected on their high school experiences.
Addison Filop, of Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School, said he was able to make his high school career a success because he drew inspiration from the sacrifices his parents made for him.
"I wanted to show them the work they did for me would be paid back to them," Filop said.
Shermeir Porter said that having a strong network of friends, teachers, and counselors at Girard College helped her get through.
"We depend on each other for support," she said.
Virlene Parker, an administrative assistant at Delaware Valley Charter High School, described the event as “an awesome way to honor our students.”
“We should do it more often," Parker said.
After the procession, students gathered for a finale in the City Hall Courtyard, where Nutter addressed the crowd. The first Mayor's Scholarship for Academic Excellence and Civic Engagement, in the amount of $5,000, was presented to a Catholic high school student.
“We want to make sure in future years we have more and more scholarships available to you,” said Nutter to the graduates.
Four other students and four high school teachers were also recognized, each receiving airline tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
“It’s almost impossible to express how proud I am,” Nutter told the crowd. “Your voices are powerful.”
Other city officials also celebrated the graduates. Among them: Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr; Barbara Mattleman, director of PhillyGoes2College; and Catie Wolfgang, chief service officer of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement.
To the students, Wolfgang said, "Thank you for being the leaders of our future.”