Philadelphia high school grads enter early childhood careers thanks to new district partnership

As teacher shortages continue to be an issue across the country, the School District of Philadelphia is celebrating the success of a new program that launched three recent high school graduates into early childhood careers.

"It’s rare for you to be like, ‘When I was 4-years-old in preschool or daycare I had a male teacher, I had a male role model,’" and sometimes you can’t say you had a male role model in your household," says Mikail Grant. "It does bring me pride and joy to get to spend time with these little kids because they are, they are wonderful."

Grant and fellow Parkway West High School spring 2023 graduates Miyon Jones and Shytina Jones are the first students to complete summer internships through a new partnership between the high school and KenCrest Early Learning Center, which provides early childhood care for the district.

All three secured their Child Development Associate’s Certification, a full-time job at KenCrest, and nine college credits. 

The partnership comes at a time when the district says high school seniors pursuing higher education to become a teacher is down 66% in Pennsylvania.

"You are setting the standard for a lot of young people, plus representation matters, not only do we need more educators, but we need more educators of color, particularly black and Latinx, because there’s a big, big shortage," says Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington Sr.

Because of their employment at KenCrest and through a state grant, all three students are able to attend the Community College of Philadelphia debt-free, and they are all planning to start classes this fall.

Parkway West is the only high school in Philadelphia that currently offers an Early Childhood CTE program, and they hope others follow in their footsteps.

"If you think about our youth today, it’s always something negative," says Yenda Hall, a teacher at Parkway West High School. "We have amazing young men and women they just need an opportunity, and all they need is someone to believe in them and give them a chance."