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“Octavius Catto didn’t wait on the sidelines, so neither shall we!”

RFA had an exciting opportunity to partner with the Community College of Philadelphia to co-host a convening to bring together local policymakers, members of institutions of higher education, and other organizational leaders to highlight the value of the Octavius Catto Scholarship. At this convening, we aimed to lift up the experiences and voices of current Catto scholars and staff to inspire attendees to act on and support the Catto Scholarship and the free community college movement.

In spring 2021, the City of Philadelphia launched the Octavius Catto Scholarship as a major anti-poverty initiative designed to put more Philadelphians on the path to success. Today, there are more than 1,600 Catto Scholars and close to 2,500 residents who have benefited from the initiative. The Octavius Catto Scholarship is a last-dollar scholarship with wraparound support services. The scholarship aims to address material and financial obstacles like tuition and fees as well as costs associated with food, transportation, and books. Additionally, scholars receive career coaching and advising as well as support connecting to local resources, including housing and childcare. RFA presented findings from their recent evaluation of the scholarship, highlighting the role of Catto staff, particularly Success Coaches, in supporting students in overcoming obstacles that interfere with their educational journeys. The evaluation provides evidence that Catto Scholars are more likely than their non-Catto CCP peers to persist and complete their credentials.

Octavius CattoThe scholarship is named after the heroic Philadelphian Octavius Catto, a 19th-century educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist. Senator ViSenator Vincent Hughesncent Hughes delivered a keynote address reminding attendees of Octavius Catto’s courage. “Octavius Catto didn’t wait on the sidelines, so neither shall we!” Senator Hughes’s message encouraged attendees to learn from the life and work of Octavius Catto and rededicate ourselves to goals, especially educational goals. The highlight of the event was a panel discussion including current Catto scholars and coaches who spoke about the value of the holistic supports of the scholarship. The panel energized the room, and attendees were invited to consider how they could connect or support the four opportunity areas for strategic partnership to ensure the future success of the initiative:

  • Targeted promotion of the Catto Scholarship to your constituents,
  • Providing employment and internship opportunities for Catto Scholars,
  • Providing enhanced support to Catto Scholars transferring to 4-year colleges & universities, and
  • Promoting policy to support the Catto Scholarship & free Community College movement.

RFA has released our full report on the Octavius Catto scholarship, For the Good of the City:” An Early Evaluation of the Catto Scholarship. Read it to learn more about the early successes of the scholarship and recommendations for improvement.