High School Student Profiles
Dahlia M. - senior
"Girard Provides a Positive Environment"
Senior Dahlia M. came to Girard College as a seventh grader. She had been attending a Catholic school, but it was becoming too expensive for her mother to afford. Although Dahlia was too proud of her academic reputation to fail in class, she set about to fail in the residence hall, acting disrespectful, distant and uncooperative. Her hope: to get expelled for negative behavior.
Within a very short period of time, Dahlia experienced the benefits of Girard's excellent residential program. Her house parent took her aside and said, "I'm onto you, and I'm not going to let you fail."
With this support, Dahlia began to make friends and to join groups like the basketball team, whose coach and teammates helped her to learn patience and to continue to grow as a person. This year, she and four other girls she has played with since middle school are the starters for Girard's successful team.
The first in her family to go to college, Dahlia will attend LaSalle in the fall with a $30,000 annual scholarship. "If I hadn't come to Girard, I would be more angry and negative, I wouldn't have this scholarship, and I wouldn't be going to LaSalle," Dahlia says. "I am more open and smiley than I was before. Girard provides a positive environment."
Damon D. - senior
“I Found Myself at Girard College”
Damon D. came to Girard in first grade when his mother determined that she couldn’t financially support her family.
Beginning in the middle school years, Damon always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, largely due to the fact that he had developed a friendship with a student who was not a good influence on him. Damon didn’t seem to be able to stand on his own, once even taking the blame for something his classmate did.
When his classmate didn’t improve his behavior and was expelled, Damon saw the friendship more clearly. He also began to see himself more clearly. He worked harder at academics and enjoyed positive feedback from teachers and RAs who had always encouraged him to “be his true self.”
In ninth grade Damon joined the soccer team and made a connection that he had never felt while playing more traditional sports like football and basketball. As he continued to become more comfortable with himself, he gravitated towards friends who were diligent and organized and who helped him to grow academically.
“Girard helped me to become more independent and self-motivated,” Damon says today. “I don’t think I would have found out who I really am if I hadn’t come to Girard.”
Damon has enrolled at Millersville University.
Fatima M. - senior
"Girard gave me Better Options"
Doors are opening for Fatima M..
A "lifer" who came to Girard from a neighborhood where she couldn't leave the front stoop, Fatima McDonald is an example of a student who has taken advantage of all that Girard has to offer. Her list of activities includes bell choir, debate club, wrestling team manager, French club, mentor and many more.
Fatima brought her positive attitude with her. Even as a first grader, she was never homesick, but was excited and very curious about what awaited her behind the Girard College walls. Supported by her mother's pride and positive expectations, Fatima loved her classes, weekend activities, socializing with peers and learning.
Her favorite subject, history, provides the foundation for her PLAN. "I am going to major in history, then teach while I save up for grad school, then I'm going to become a lawyer," she says with confidence.
Accepted at La Salle, Fatima is waiting to hear from Temple before she makes the important decision about which college she will attend. "Girard has given me better options, opened better doors, and college is the most important door," she says.
Aaliyah A. - junior
"The Words I Live By"
Aaliyah A. has a passion for words. She chooses them thoughtfully and then uses them as guides on her quest to change the world.
Aaliyah came to Girard in second grade because her mother thought it would be a safe environment that would encourage her children to go to college. Ten years later, she says that the Girard community has become like family.
According to Aaliyah, Girard has paved her way toward success by encouraging her to exhibit the two things one needs for success: passion and determination.
"I live by these words: 'Impact and improve society through relationships,' and
'My dream is to make history, not become it,'" she says.
She has found one outlet for her passion to improve society and make history in the Duke of Edinburgh, the self-directed, community service student group on campus. For her project, Aaliyah has planned and organized a resource fair to be held on Saturday, April 16 in the Girard College armory. Called the "B.E.T. Resource Fair" ("bringing everyone together"), the fair features organizations that address issues such as teen violence and bullying. Her plans include offering many resources but also volunteer and scholarship opportunities.
Aaliyah is determined to continue to pursue her goals when she goes to college and majors in business and public/community service.
Kandace F. - Senior
"Girard Teachers Challenge Me"
Kandace F. is a New Yorker. She spent most of her life living there with her grandmother, happily attending New York City schools. In the summer of 2007, before her freshman year in high school, she moved to Philadelphia to live with her mother. She was enrolled in the local public schools and attended for exactly one day.
When she returned home that afternoon, she said to her mother, "I am NOT going back there. Send me back to Brooklyn, or send me to Girard." She was enrolled at Girard within the week.
What Kandace loves most about Girard College are the teachers. She hates math, but LOVES her math teacher. English is her favorite subject, and Ms. Gardner is THE BEST. "She loves what she teaches, and it shows," Kandace says.
In the beginning of her Girard experience, Kandace had to take a medical leave due to serious back problems. In another school environment, Kandace is not confident she would have been able to keep up with her academic workload. However, Girard teachers, going above and beyond, worked together to support and encourage her through particularly trying times.
Today, as class president and a leader of the green initiative, Kandace is the product not only of her efforts but also of the faculty members who gave unsparingly of their time to push her efforts forward. She will not forget them as she moves onto her next alma mater: Columbia, of course!
Lonaya B. - Senior
"Girard has been a Safe Haven for Me"
Lifer Lonaya B. remembers being terribly home sick when she arrived at Girard as a first grader. Now Girard is home, so much so that when she leaves campus, "even the air feels different."
The community at Girard College has meant everything to Lonaya. Teachers encourage her, making her feel comfortable enough to raise her hand and ask questions in class. She points out that many, like her Spanish teacher, Ms. Alvarez, connect with students on a personal level. "I know that the teachers care about me," she says.
If she hadn't gone to Girard, Lonaya is sure she would have gotten lost in larger classes without the individual attention that she needs. And she wouldn't have enjoyed two Girard class trips to Canada or Spain.
On her lapel, Lonaya wears a pin commemorating the life of a close neighborhood friend, killed in gang violence in 2010. It serves as a sad reminder, but it may also be a symbol of what Lonaya has to be grateful for: her safe haven at Girard.