Posted February 7, 2024

Helping Philadelphia middle schoolers get ready for college at Temple

Temple’s Saturday College program for middle school students will occur monthly during the academic year on Saturday mornings at campus facilities between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. 

Image of Makerspace room in Temple University’s studio.
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
Temple's Saturday College program is accessible to middle schoolers living in Philadelphia, with a particular emphasis on students who reside within the university’s eight neighboring North Philadelphia ZIP codes—19121, 19122, 19123, 19125, 19130, 19132, 19133 and 19140.

Saturday College, a new program designed to help middle school students who live in Philadelphia to prepare for college, launched the spring 2024 session this past Saturday at Temple University’s Main Campus.  

A cohort of 25 students from the city of Philadelphia learned about 3D printing and the laser cutting machine process while visiting the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio Makerspace inside Charles Library. They constructed their own wooden birdhouses, and then added a personal touch, using Adobe Illustrator, to create a font for engraving the wood.  

The Saturday college program, which will be held once a month on Temple’s campus, is one of Temple’s pre-college access and readiness programs for underserved children in the Philadelphia community. Its goal is to prepare students for post-secondary education, as the program’s curriculum introduces them to academic subjects in a fun and engaging way.  

Saturday College also helps further support the recently launched Temple Promise financial aid grant program, as it helps to build an earlier pipeline from Philadelphia-area schools to Temple.  

“Research shows us that college decision-making begins as early as seventh grade and by ninth grade, most students already have at least an inkling of what they would like to do after high school,” said Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Impact Valerie Harrison, who helped create the new program. “Pre-college programs for middle-schoolers can have a positive impact on students’ likelihood of attending college after high school,” 

Harrison said the program aims to demystify and highlight the college campus experience, admissions requirements, financial aid options and create an on-ramp to undergraduate studies. 

Vicki Lewis McGarvey, vice provost for Temple’s University College, and Maureen Saraco, director of summer and pre-college programs, have been integral in creating and implementing the program’s vision. The program is also supported by other key Temple offices, including the Office of Undergraduate Admissions; Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL); and Government Affairs. 

“For North Philadelphia neighborhoods, Temple’s Main Campus is uniquely positioned to help serve as a community resource, and this program can help with that,” McGarvey said. “Our goal is to develop students’ self-confidence, sense of cultural esteem and leadership.” 

After completing the Saturday College program, participants will be connected to other academic opportunities, such as Temple’s summer camping experiences, and B4USoar, a high school program that offers students attending public or charter schools in Philadelphia the chance to attend college classes free of charge. Also, students in 12th grade who live in nearby ZIP codes (19121, 19122, 19123, 19125, 19130, 19132, 19133 and 19140) will be eligible for the Cecil B. Moore Scholars Program, which provides opportunities to earn college credit in high school and the ability to compete for a full-tuition undergraduate scholarship at Temple.  

Temple University will devote one of the Saturday sessions exclusively to helping parents and guardians understand how to support their students’ transition from high school to college, providing admissions and financial aid information and grade-appropriate guidance. (Photo by Ryan Brandenberg)  

One of participants during the inaugural event noted that they are interested in pursuing a degree in nursing, and said they enjoyed getting hands-on experience on a college campus.

“The architecture at Temple has always stood out in the way everything is structured,” said one participant, who is an eighth grader at St. Malachy Catholic School in North Philadelphia. “I like art as a hobby, so I enjoyed that we got to paint and personalize our birdhouses. And it was fun using the typewriter in the makerspace room because I like writing and it was my first time using one.”  

They added that the Saturday College program is also a good opportunity for people who may be shy to be more social.  

“I was also a camper at Temple’s Rowing Camp, where many kids stuck to themselves or with people that they already knew, but I noticed the same kids who are also in this college program have become more social,” they said. “It is helpful with getting out of your comfort zone and making new friends.”