Freire students
The first Freire class with Senior Vice Dean Debbie Campbell

Temple University’s Fox School of Business is expanding its partnership with the Freire Charter School System to offer Philadelphia high school students the opportunity to learn that they can thrive in higher education.

Two young men are playing “Connect Four” at the back of a room on the first floor of 1810 Liacouras Walk. They are not in a lecture hall or a high-tech computer lab. They want to start their own business, so naturally, they are eating cookies, downing small plastic cups of iced tea and dreaming big.

They are standing with a half-dozen other teens in the incubator at Temple University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (IEI) late in the afternoon on Nov. 6 for an information session about the B4USoar program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The teens are looking for inspiration, for mentorship and, more than anything, for something new to learn.

The B4USoar program started with a single course in the Spring of 2019, but now Temple University is quintupling its investment in the program. That first course, Create and Innovate, brought together 15 high school students from the Freire Charter School System and more than a dozen Temple undergraduate students. It was the brainchild of Debbie Campbell, senior vice dean at the Fox School, and Hilda Bacon, director of community partnerships and engagement at Build the Future Education Collaborative, a nonprofit that supports education opportunities at the Friere schools. 

The goal was to increase access to high-quality business education and show the Freire students they could thrive in higher education. By all accounts, that first course was a success, and as a result, the program is expanding. 

“Russell Conwell built Temple on the idea that there were people, diamonds, in this city, whom he could educate and in doing that, improve the lives of the entire community,” says Campbell. 

The Fox School will offer two courses in the Spring of 2020. Michelle Histand, director of innovation at Independence Blue Cross and an adjunct professor at the Fox School, is returning to teach the Create and Innovate course which was offered previously. Ellen Weber, executive director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, is teaching the new Empowerment through Entrepreneurship course. 

“The kids in that first Freire-Temple class were diamonds,” says Campbell. The class was fantastic and now we are adding a second business course and looking for more high school students to  prepare for college.”

Many of the Freire students come from financially-challenging backgrounds and for some, there are hurdles to achieving their dreams. In Philadelphia, about 37 percent of the city’s children live below the federal poverty line, according to a study by The Pew Charitable Trust. Of those Philadelphians living below the poverty line, 29 percent did not finish high school, 68 percent did not pursue higher education at all and 87 percent did not achieve a bachelor’s degree. 

According to a 2015 report by the Brookings Institute, low-income families are at a disadvantage in participating in their children’s success in post-secondary education. The institute pointed to a high rate of low-income students failing to complete their degrees. The institute cited several factors for these circumstances: poor preparation, limited funding and limited knowledge of the world of higher education.

B4USoar addresses the “limited knowledge of the world of higher education” and poor preparation challenges that confront many first-generation college students. 

The Freire students partner with Temple students who mentor them throughout the program. They plan projects together, study and create a network of support.

Campbell said the Fox School plans to add at least one more business course and would like to partner with other general education programs at other schools in the university as the program expands.

“The Freire Charter Schools and the Fox School opened these students’ eyes in a way that empowered them to see their potential and the potential in the world around them,” says Hilda Bacon, director of community partnerships and engagement for a nonprofit organization that works with the Freire schools. “They know they can make the world brighter. That might be the most important part of this program, showing kids that a high school student from Pennsylvania can change the world.”

As the informational session ended, 17-year-old Cameron Johnson, who has already taken the Create and Innovate course, said she was thinking of going to Temple University after graduation next year. 

The B4USoar program starts again in the Spring 2020 semester. The Freire students go through a rigorous selection process. Temple students are able to apply to the courses through the normal registration process. 

To learn more about this initiative and the vision for the future of Fox School of Business, visit the Fox Strategic Plan 2025 website.

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