Charter students celebrate collegiate futures at Liacouras Center

Mayor joins crowd of thousands in celebrating college decisions of Philly students.

Close to 7,000 students, families, and teachers of Mastery Charter Schools celebrated the future of 450 high school seniors today at Temple’s Liacouras Center for the first annual Mastery Charter Schools’ College Signing Day.

Mara Cooper, assistant director of college initiatives at Mastery Charter Schools said the event was derived from the signing days popularized by high profile student athletes signing National Letters of Intent to play college sports.

“We took that over. We said instead of celebrating athletics we’re going to celebrate all students in this choice they’re making to pursue [post-secondary] education,” Cooper said.

Cooper, who oversees the programs at Mastery Charter that are related to college, helped put the event together, bringing students from all the Mastery Charter schools in Philadelphia. “They’re no longer thinking of themselves as Mastery Charter,” she said of the students, “but now they’re really thinking of themselves as the kid who’s going to college with the kid who was also a Mastery Charter student.”

Mayor Michael Nutter took a moment to speak to the students, congratulating them on their hard work. “We want you to go on,” Nutter said, “and be the role models that you are to your siblings or nieces or nephews or cousins or just folks who are in the neighborhood. Let them see who you are.” He urged the students to fulfill themselves and bring their own story back to their school.

In that respect, he offered his own services to the students. “Our city’s Mayor’s Office of Education and the Philly Goes to College Office is a great resource,” Nutter said. “Come down to city hall and utilize the resources that are available to you, we’re there for you.”

The mayor also reminisced on his reasons for pursing a higher education. “A long, long time ago when I was a kid, way back in the Stone Age, my grandmother used to tell me all the time, she said, ‘Boy, get as much education as you can, because no one can ever take that away from you.’ So, I want to share that with you today. This is about you. It’s about your future.”

The mayor also took a moment to joke with the students gathered together. “You already demonstrated you can be successful,” Nutter said. “We need you to do it one or two or three more times. And when you do, you’ll earn more money over the course of your lifetime. Anybody here like money?”, the mayor asked before the crowd erupted into a roaring cheer and whistles. “I thought you might,” he said.

After the mayor spoke to the students, there was a moment to celebrate all the student’s choices of colleges, announcing each one as the students cheered on their choice.

“Pretty excited,” Bashirr Johnson, a Mastery Charter graduate, said about his graduation. “I’ve been looking forward to it ever since 7th grade, since I went to Mastery, so it’s pretty exciting.” Johnson will be going to Villanova, and plans to study engineering for his undergraduate degree and then nuclear engineering in graduate school. When asked his final thoughts about the event, Johnson said, “2017. That’s it right there.” A reminder that these students are focused on a positive future.

Matt Hulmes can be reached at

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