A little over a year ago, Mayor Jim Kenny announced his vision to make Philadelphia’s community college free for countless Philadelphians. This vision is now known as the Octavius Cato Scholarship – the result of a partnership between the college and the City of Philadelphia.
Catto Scholars are first-time full-time undergraduates receiving last dollar funding to cover tuition and fees, plus up to $1,500 per semester for food, books, transportation, and other costs. Earlier this month, more than 130 Cato scholars finished their first semester.
“During my first few weeks at CCP, I was able to receive my monthly stipend and additional support services,” said Cato Researcher Chelsea Hammond. “I would love for the scholarship to help support me so that I can spend more time focusing on my studies rather than worrying about the amount in my bank account.”
In addition to financial support, Catto Scholars receive comprehensive services to ensure student success. These services include enhanced academic success and vocational training, specialized workshops and programming, as well as connections to vital resources such as housing and childcare assistance.
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Each Scholar is paired with a Catto Success Coach who works with them individually to assess their needs and provide support to facilitate academic and personal success. The instructors act as a bridge connecting scholars to college departments for academic advising, career development resources, and even four-year transfer opportunities.
They work at the end to ensure that each Cato Scholar is kept and graduated on time.
“At first, I knew I was going to get extra financial help, but I didn’t know much about all the opportunities I would soon be offered,” Hammond said. “I met my own success coach, who promised me services based on my personal and education needs. It’s good to have someone in your corner to turn to when you are just starting school, especially when we are completely virtual at this time.”
The Octavius Catto Scholarship is designed for students like Hammond who need extra support to ensure their success. The scholarship seeks to raise the bar for our most vulnerable residents by providing equitable access to a high-quality university education.
Best of all, students do not need to apply for the scholarship. Once they have applied to the college and completed their FAFSA application, they will be contacted by the Catto Scholarship Team if they are eligible.
“After first applying to CCP, I was notified that I was eligible for the scholarship,” Hammond said.
She adds that the scholarship came after some difficult personal experiences, including childhood emotional problems, drug abuse and homelessness.
“After many years of hard work, I was finally able to buy my own apartment,” Hammond said. “I’ve worked at a few places over the years and have found sales rewarding. The downside was that I couldn’t find anywhere willing to pay more than $12 an hour, which barely covered my bills. I knew if I went back to school, I could I do something I really love, earn more money, and find a more reliable job.”
Hammond is now on his way to pursue a paralegal career and is enrolled in the college’s paralegal studies program. She simply wants to help others and hopes that one day she will be able to connect people in need with resources to help them succeed.
Additional information about the Octavius Catto Scholarship, including full eligibility requirements, can be found online at ccp.edu/catto.