Today Bria ’09, a freshman at Saint Joseph’s University, is poised to change the world. A thoughtful, articulate young lady, Bria blossomed at Gesu School thanks to the support of people like you.
Teachers remember Bria as a leader whom other students respected. When she had something to say, people listened. In fact, Bria landed at Saint Joseph’s University for that very reason.
As a 3rd grader at Gesu School, Bria delivered a speech about diversity and culture that caught the attention of Saint Joseph’s University’s president. He offered her a full tuition scholarship to the university on the spot.
All Bria had to do was get there—no small feat for a child growing up in North Philadelphia.
You see, in North Philadelphia, too many gang fights, drug deals and shootings surround our children. New research shows that the mere proximity of violence hampers students’ learning. At the same time, our children find too few college-educated adults in the community who can show them the way.
“Nobody around me went to college. I’m the first person in my family to go,” Bria says. “Everybody wants you to go to college, but nobody tells you how to get there.” But thanks to people like you and the Gesu School “village,” Bria received the foundation, safety and support she needed to find and follow the path to her college degree.
As Bria prepared for 8th grade graduation, Gesu helped her enroll in a highly selective college preparatory boarding school. “I had a rough home situation and it was really affecting my grades in 7th and 8th grade,” Bria explains. The boarding school was a perfect match, and Bria thrived there. Her promised college scholarship hung within her grasp.
Bria seized that scholarship to Saint Joseph’s. But, years later, she still leans on her Gesu village for the advice and encouragement she needs to graduate.
“I might not be able to go to anybody in my family [for college advice],” Bria acknowledges, “but I can come back to Gesu and talk to my teachers.” Other inner-city students don’t always have the same network of people to guide them to graduation, a reason Bria believes so many drop out of college.
After she earns her degree, Bria hopes to become a high school English teacher. “I love reading. I love writing. I love everything that has to do with language. I think there is so much power in words and teaching people how to use them,” she explains. Thank you to everyone who helped give Bria this very same power by helping to fund her Gesu education!
This chapter of Bria’s story is nicely summarized by a message she delivered to her high school community at a school-wide event her sophomore year. Bria was selected as one of eight students to present a speech on any topic of her choice.
She retold an age-old story—with her own interpretation—about a mother who teaches her daughter about the trials of life. The mother puts an egg, a carrot, and some coffee beans into three separate pots of boiling water, encouraging her daughter to reflect on which she’ll be.
The daughter discovers that boiling water makes the fragile egg hard and the hard carrot soft. But put in coffee beans, and together they change the water.
Together. “To make coffee, you don’t put in just one bean,” Bria attests. “At Gesu, there are still people who believe in me. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.”
Thank you to everyone who plays a part in our village, who joins us in the boiling water to change it into something delightful. You raise North Philadelphia’s children to new heights.