Posted March 3, 2023

B4USoar earns 2023 Inspiring Programs in Business Award

The program, founded by the Fox School of Business, has been recognized by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for introducing Philadelphia public and charter high school students to a collegiate experience. 

Students participating in B4USoar on campus
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
B4USoar allows high school students to take tuition-free college courses and receive credits.

High school senior Samantha Tumala recalls a time several years ago when she struggled to feel like she fit in with her middle-school classmates.

It wasn’t clothes or athleticism or possessions that made her feel out of place. This went much deeper. It was differences in language, culture and the color of her skin that caused such unease for the young girl whose first spoken words were not English and whose family spanned two countries.

But things changed when Tumala entered Philadelphia’s William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs. At Bodine, she found a more diverse student population—and new, exciting opportunities like the B4USoar program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Finding a place where you belong is at the core of B4USoar, an outreach program designed to introduce under-resourced, academically strong Philadelphia public and charter high school students to college and show them how they can thrive at a higher learning institution.

“I don’t have that mindset of not belonging anymore. I have a lot of places where I belong now,” said Tumala, who is enrolled in her second course with the program that allows high school students to take college courses and receive credits.

“It has been exciting,” she said of her experience. “It is challenging and rewarding, and I get to be among so many different people that it has made me feel comfortable in my environment.”

Like Tumala, the program is also thriving. This week, B4USoar earned the 2023 Inspiring Programs in Business Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The magazine is the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education, according to its website.

B4USoar has been a source of pride for Fox Senior Vice Dean Debbie Campbell, who in 2019 began putting pieces in place to create the program.

“It's great to see B4USoar being recognized for its role in preparing high school students for higher education,” she said. “The program began with an initial group of 15 students from the Freire Charter School Network. As of fall 2022, we have had 234 students from 25 of the city’s high schools complete the program, with another 48 enrolled in spring 2023.”

This is the second time in two years that the Temple community has been recognized for its diversity and inclusion efforts. Temple was named a recipient of the 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The HEED Award is a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

"Temple University is extremely proud of initiatives like B4USoar, which provides exceptional educational opportunities for students and improves the lives of children and families in our community,” said Valerie Harrison, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Reaching out

In Philadelphia, there are 47 district high schools and nine charter high schools, according to the latest data available from the School District of Philadelphia.

Of the 80% of district high school students who graduated in 2020–21, 48% of those students enrolled in college in the fall, according to the district. Charter high school students had a graduation rate of 88% in 2020–21, according to the district, with 49% of those students headed to college that fall.

Hilda Bacon, director of the B4USoar program at Fox, is doing her best to engage many of those students ahead of graduation.

“Our goal is to make sure interested students really see what a college or university can offer them,” Bacon said. “When we started this program, we were working with two or three high schools. Now I am working with many more schools, speaking with their guidance counselors, academic advisors and students to encourage them to learn more about B4USoar.”

Bacon meets with interested students for an interview to learn more about their background and explains how the program works.

“Students in the program come to Main Campus and take a three-credit course alongside Temple students who are also taking the class,” she said. “They get the experience of being a college student in a college classroom before they graduate high school.”

Each course also has a B4USoar peer mentor who offers support and helps students navigate being in a collegiate setting.  The program allows each participant to take up to two Temple classes for a total of six college credits. These classes are typically part of the general education (GenED) curriculum, which Bacon points out makes the credits transferable to most colleges and universities.

“Because this is a tuition-free program, those six credits can also give students a jump start on reducing the cost of going to college,” Bacon said.

Embracing opportunities 

Carlos Peterson is a junior at George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, just a few blocks from Temple’s Main Campus. He is enrolled in Creativity and Organizational Innovation, one of the seven courses available to B4USoar participants. It’s a great fit for Peterson, who is interested in honing his creative skills and getting to know the other people in the class.

“There are a lot more students who are similar to me in the sense that they are either freshmen in college or in their junior or senior year of high school, and we’re all trying to get a feel of what we want to do,” he said. “The people I'm taking the program with are closer to my age range and experience, and having a community or group of people who are going through the same steps you are and learning with you is a lot more conducive to learning.”

While Peterson is enjoying everything that’s been happening so far in his first B4USoar class, he is looking forward to the final project that requires creating a product prototype with his group.

“I look forward to having something that I can look back on, that is tangible, and say, ‘I made that,’” he said. “I know that whatever it is, I'm going to put my best foot forward.”

Moving forward

While Peterson still has another year before he enters college, Tumala will graduate from Bodine later this spring. She recently learned she has been accepted to Temple for the fall semester and plans to major in business management at Fox.

Bacon says that while B4USoar students are not required to go to Temple after completing the program, she’s excited to know that Tumala will be coming back to Main Campus as a full-time student. “She is a great example of a B4USoar success story," Bacon said.

Tumala says she is very grateful that Bacon took the time to come to her high school to share information about B4USoar.

“I probably wouldn't be in a college class right now or involved in so many activities without her coming to my school,” Tumala said. “I'm still a high schooler, but I just had an experience that not a lot of people I know get to have.” 

For now, Tumala wants to finish her time with B4USoar and get ready for her upcoming graduation.

“I don’t want to fast-forward into my college life just yet,” she said. “I want to stay a high school student and enjoy my experience. But because of B4USoar, I know what’s ahead of me." 

- Karen Naylor