Strolling across Lehigh University's picturesque campus, Jamel Haggins is a striking example of the best that Philadelphia's neighborhood high schools have to offer.
Now a 20-year-old college junior, Haggins is on track to earn his architecture degree next spring. A chiseled 6'3" tall and 255 pounds, he's also an all-conference tight end for Lehigh's football team. Sporting an easy smile and a bright red fraternity sweatshirt – he's the president of the campus chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi – the proud North Philly native is a magnet for attention from students and staff alike.
"He's my everything," gushes Haggins' girlfriend, Allison Morrow, the president of Lehigh's Black Student Union.
Haggins was the crown jewel of the class of 2009 at North Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High: class valedictorian, a three-time all-Public League football star, and a commanding officer in the school's Navy Junior ROTC.
With costs soaring, getting to and through college is more difficult now than ever, and that has many students skeptical about whether it’s even worth the effort.
The Notebook wanted to offer practical information and advice on how students can successfully navigate the college-going process. To do that, we talked to two local college placement experts, Thomas Butler and Karen Campbell, asking them questions that high school students may have.
I’m not sure college is really for me. Why do you think it is?
Sitting at a table in the cafeteria at the Community College of Philadelphia, Cheick Kante makes no effort to hide his frustration.
"Sometimes I wish I'd never come here," says Kante, 22, a towering man who is studying computer information systems at CCP. "I never knew it would be like this."
A few hours later and a brisk walk away, Mohamed Kakay is a study in confidence as he chats in Starbucks at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a graduate student in global studies. "I've had to work twice as hard," says Kakay, also 22. "But the resources are there for immigrant students."