Jennifer Polanco, a graduate of Excel Academy South, is looking forward to greater things. In September of 2012, she began her post-secondary studies at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP).
Jennifer never thought about going to college. Instead, she considered getting a 180-day certification at a local community services organization and finding a job at one of the many day care centers in the community.
Jennifer thought she didn’t have the financial resources or the patience to embark on the journey of higher education. She was able to meet with the ELECT Teen Parent Classroom staff at Excel Academy South, which helped her explorer her career options. ELECT is a program which is a partnership between Communities In Schools of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia.
Jennifer explained, “I became pregnant at 12 years old. My first contact with the ELECT program was at Fels High School. After a few months, I transferred to Excel South and joined the program. As a young parent, I faced many challenges and difficulties. It was good to have someone to talk to that was able to listen without being judgmental.”
Time in the ELECT program helped Jennifer set higher goals for herself. “When I met with the ELECT staff, I was convinced I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to obtain a certification and obtain employment as soon as possible. I didn’t think I would have the money or patience to take college classes,” said Jennifer.
The ELECT Site Manager helped her understand the benefits of furthering her education by attending college. Through a series of career assessments, Jennifer was able to see what careers best matched her personality and abilities. After completing college applications, Jennifer decided to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in early childhood education. She plans to attend Community College of Philadelphia and then transfer to a four year college.
When asked how she achieved success, Jennifer answered, “The ELECT program helped me with information and every time I needed some emotional support with problems at home or school, they were there. They helped me with my attendance, by keeping me accountable and helped access child care, while encouraging me to do better.”
Enrolling in ELECT completely changed Jennifer’s life. “Since being part of the ELECT program, my behavior and attendance have improved. I feel more comfortable and confident. I now have a job at Sesame Place and will be working there during the weekends beginning in April. For this second marking period, I made the honor roll. This program also helped me with resources for my son, such as toys and books.”
Jennifer has immense gratitude for the help she received. “Everything happens for a reason. If it wasn’t for the ELECT program, I don’t know how I would have survived. The staff, has helped me immensely and I felt accepted from the beginning. I will strongly recommend this program to other teen parent students,” Jennifer stated.