Unrealized potential: A case study of an urban school-to-work program

Howard Salasin, University of Pennsylvania


This is a case study of a school-to-work program that links a comprehensive high school and a pediatric hospital in Philadelphia, PA. It describes the program model, the elements important to its operation, the voices of the participants, and the overarching issues of educational system support and student preparation and benefits. Three recurrent themes are expressed by the data: (1) Students benefit from positive adult support. (2) Students develop a sense of responsibility if they are held accountable. (3) Programs are essential to connect the value and purpose of education to the students' aspirations and expectations. Inner-city schools are faced with many problems. School-to-work programs provide a tool to connect the classroom to the workplace. They are an attempt to change outcomes that do more than simply reshuffle the same deck. Educational systems sometimes favor those whose needs are easiest to satisfy. Those who benefit are those who are better prepared socially and academically and/or energetically pursue their goals. This program has been effective for its participants, because key individuals have had the necessary dedication and skill. It must be understood that the program does not address the neediest students. This does not detract from the good accomplished, but it helps to put the targets and need for reform into perspective. This research calls for community and political support to provide jobs and educational programs that are necessary on a larger scale for a broader population of students. An education system that taps the unrealized potential of youth can help to reverse the flight from the cities, if it is a system that addresses the needs of all students. There is a statue of William Penn on top of the Philadelphia City Hall. It has been adorned with a Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey jersey, but it has never been dressed in a graduate's cap and gown. There are awards from political and business leaders and parades when the sports teams win. There has never been a parade for all high school graduates or civic recognition of national merit scholars or valedictorians. That's something to think about.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Vocational education

Recommended Citation

Salasin, Howard, "Unrealized potential: A case study of an urban school-to-work program" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829983.