West Philadelphia high school student credits family, school for acceptance into Harvard University

A Paul Robeson High School senior is stunned and elated to learn she has been accepted to Harvard University for fall 2023 and she happily credits her family as well as the high school for getting her ready for her elevation to the Ivy League university.

Alyssa Perren and her Robeson principal, Richard Gordon IV, joined Thomas Drayton and Alex Holley on Good Day to chat about the incredible opportunity and how the hard work Perren did gave her the ability to achieve her dream.

Initially, Perren was asked about the moment she received the exciting news.

"I was actually out front with the horses and I sat down and I thought, ‘It’s 7:03, let me check.’ So, I went and I checked and it said, Congratulations. And, that’s all that I read and I started screaming. And, I ran back into the barn and my friends hugged me and those screams just turned to tears," she described the moment she found out she had been accepted to Harvard University.

Which led to Good Day anchor Thomas Drayton asking Perren what led her to choose Harvard.

"An alumni from the Work to Ride program is actually the assistant coach up there, so me and my dad took a spur of the moment trip up there last October and I kind of just fell in love, like with the place, with the scenery and it was, like, I knew I wanted to call this place home," Perren explained.

"And that switched, cause that wasn’t originally your number one pick, was it?" asked Good Day anchor Alex Holley.

"No, originally, I really liked Cornell and I really liked Princeton," Perrin replied.

Drayton then wanted to hear from Principal Gordon and his reaction.

"She’s been amazing since the day she walked on campus," explained Principal Gordon. "And her family’s been amazing, as well, so she’s the fourth relative that I’ve had in my building to graduate who are excelling in our building."

"She’s also a first, though, isn’t she?" Holley asked.

"She’s the first Ivy League acceptance to ever had in our building. It’s a big deal for our school, because, if you remember, 10 years ago, our school was slated for permanent closure. And, so to be able to turn it around and have the opportunity to send our students to the best universities around in our country and now have an Ivy League acceptance? She does a great representation of what’s happening in our building," Principal Gordon explained.

"And, it’s because of the amazing programs that you have," Thomas Drayton stated. "I mean, don’t get me wrong, a lot of it’s hard work, dedication, you worked very hard for this. But, also, you credit this for the programs."

"Oh yeah, I wouldn’t be here without Robeson. Robeson opened a lot of doors for me," Perren credits her school with what she has achieved. "I’m really thankful that I can say that I went here, as opposed to anywhere else in the city. There’s really nowhere that I’d rather be."

"What’s the program you’re involved in?" Drayton asked.

"Oh, that’s the Work to Ride program. That’s in Fairmount Park, in West Philly. We’re a small community, but we’re more like a family," Perren talked about the Work to Ride experience.

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"What is it about it that made the difference to you?" Holley asked.

"It was my dad who was one of the first students under the Work to Ride program when it first opened and I took after him and from being there and meeting everybody, I knew, this is home. This is always going to be home. After I go to college and even after I graduate and I’m an adult, I’m always going to remember everybody," Perren described her Work to Ride pride and joy with the program. "When you enter Work to Ride, you learn to groom different horses, how to take care of them. Medical needs. You go on to focus, like, you can turn to jumping or polo, or whatever you want to do. It gives us a second home away from home where we get to learn things we wouldn’t learn anywhere else."

"And, that’s important for you, isn’t it? Because when you look at the sport, there’s not a lot of diversity. Did that matter to you and is it something that you noticed when you first got into it?" asked Holley.

"One of my favorite things that I like to say is I tend to forget what I represent to other people when I’m out there. Sometimes, it’s like when I walk into a room, I’m the only Black person there. Or, I’m the only Black woman there," Perren replied. "A little Black girl came up to me afterward and she was like, ‘Can you sign my Crock?’ And, I signed her shoes for her, because she said, ‘I really like your hair.’ At that time, I had braids and I had beads on the end of my braids, so they would make a lot of noise when I came on the field. So, it made a big difference to how people in the crowd, who look like me, who are like, ‘I want to do what she does.’"

"And, they see it’s possible by looking at you in more ways than one. You know, not just when you’re out there with the horses, but also Harvard!" Holley exclaimed.

Drayton then asked, "And, your major?"

"I want to be a biology major. Hopefully, I want to pursue a career as a veterinarian."

Drayton then asked Principal Gordon, "What message would you want other students to see and the community to see?"
"When I entered Paul Robeson High School, with the challenges we were facing, I had a dream of having us have one of the best schools in the city of Philadelphia. And, we’ve been able to move in that direction and Alyssa just confirmed that dreams do come true. Not just for her, but also setting a blazing path for students to follow behind. I’m just so proud of her, being able to do that, not just for herself and her family, but also for Philadelphia and also for Paul Robeson High School."