Audenried Charter graduates score big with record $4 million in scholarships

by Kiara Santos: Philadelphia Tribune, June 7, 2024

The 13th graduating class of Charles Y. Audenried Charter High School held their commencement ceremony at the school last week. A first for the school since the pandemic.

Graduating seniors at Universal Audenried Charter School, formerly known as Charles Y. Audenried High School in South Philadelphia were rewarded a historic $4 million in academic scholarships.

The 105-student graduating class had 50 students, who earned competence or advance levels on the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, or NOCTI certification, an American certification that tests students abilities in professional skills.

The school’s 13th class of seniors who graduated last week had a 95% graduation rate with 80% of students headed to two-four year colleges and universities, trade schools or careers in their respective fields.

Their graduation highlighted achievements with the first of having three valedictorians all receiving full scholarships: Ariyana Martin to Widener University; Aissata Sow to East Stroudsburg University; and Halimatou Bah to Pennsylvania State University.

Co-Salutatorians Mariama Jalloh received a partial scholarship to West Chester University and Hishien Billips-Butts has committed to Community College of Philadelphia.

“I am proud to join the senior class of Universal Audenried 2024 for their tenacity, resiliency, and fortitude to remain vigilant in their quest to receive their high school education,” said founder and chairman of Universal Companies Kenny Gamble said in a news release.

“Despite starting their high school career during the height of a pandemic, I applaud our seniors and share that everyone should acknowledge the accomplishments of our future leaders and extend congratulations to the 2024 Senior Class. Education is truly the passport to the future.”

Decadelong educator and lifelong Philadelphian, Damon Harris McNeil, addressed the students on their big day.

McNeil has taught every grade level, from kindergarten to 12th and will highlight during his address, “be your best self and achieve.” He currently serves as Universal Audenried’s English 3 Teacher and Advanced Placement literature teacher.

Audenried has had enrollment increase in its culinary, health care, commercial art, engineer and diesel academies. The school’s academic and student attendance are recorded at all-time highs and incidents at a record low.

Literature Keystone scores at Audenried have ranked higher than neighborhood schools and Keystone scores are skewing higher; whereas local neighborhood schools scores are trending downward.

Principal Joshua Anderson led the charge during the pandemic to ensure the student scholars of Universal Audenried receive the necessary tools to achieve beyond their years of high school.

The graduation ceremony was the first ceremony to be held within the school.

The principal also noted their strides through getting through school during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and how the record $4 million signifies resilience through times of global uncertainty.

“I am extremely proud of my senior class of 2024 for the obstacles faced over the last three — four years and achieving beyond measures,” Anderson said in a news release. “I am doubly honored and appreciative of the many organizations, corporations and nonprofits that have awarded scholarships to my seniors.”

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Universal Family of Schools