Roxborough student ambassadors bring together old and new in the face of transition

 Some of Roxborough High School's student ambassadors. From L to R: Nahje Royester, Hanif Henderson, Monali Patel, Kayla Hadley, Marqui Kelly, Jabbar Small, Breinna Crabbe and Brett Vance. (Michelle Barrett/for NewsWorks)

Some of Roxborough High School's student ambassadors. From L to R: Nahje Royester, Hanif Henderson, Monali Patel, Kayla Hadley, Marqui Kelly, Jabbar Small, Breinna Crabbe and Brett Vance. (Michelle Barrett/for NewsWorks)

When Roxborough High School opened its doors to nearly 150 new students in September after nearby Germantown High School closed, newly-minted principal Dana Jenkins wanted to make sure the school had a plan in place.

And so the student ambassador program was born.

Brett Vance, an education specialist at Roxborough, mentors the students in the ambassador program. He tipped his hat to the students that have been involved in the many changes that took place this year.

“You’re talking about people that have emulated the skills truly necessary at a school like Roxborough,” said Vance. “This year has been extremely hard.”

With the help of a group of hand selected students, made up of mostly juniors and seniors, the ambassador program was meant to help Roxborough High students — both old and new — transition to the influx of students in the building.

Hanif Henderson is a former Germantown High student and an adopted senior student ambassador.

“I thought I couldn’t adapt to anything. When I came here I knew some people, but everyone treated me as if I were family or a close friend. I stayed involved and just maintained a positive attitude,” said Henderson.

The school held an informal orientation for incoming upperclassmen in the summer before the year started. New students and their family members were able to get familiar with the layout of the building, access to public transportation and sign up for sports.

The orientation was capped off with a spaghetti dinner, symbolizing the initiation of the new family members.

“It was really a way to open the doors,” said Vance.

“Everyone thought it was going to be territorial and it really wasn’t,” said Kayla Hadley, a senior student ambassador.

“Germantown ended up adding to what we didn’t have at Roxborough and what we already had, helped the Germantown students feel like this was their home,” said Hadley.

Introducing academy

Alongside adjusting to a new set of students, Roxborough was also in the midst of a transition towards an “all-academy school,” — referring to the career and college-prepartory curriculum offered through nonprofit Philadelphia Academies. Roxborough is on track to become the first school in the city to offer such programming to 100 percent of its students. 

Roxborough now has a ninth-grade academy and will introduce the 10th grade academy this fall. The program allows students to incorporate tracks like web design, cinematography and liberal arts in the arts academy or they can study in the academy of the sciences which includes biotechnology and international business.

Jabbar Small admits that while he wants to pursue culinary school after high school, he appreciates the cinematography skills he is learning.

“You can always use creative skills in the business world. I could create my own portfolio for my dishes or a five-minute video on whipping together a healthy snack,” said Smalls.

Henderson added that the academy helped him stayed focused this year. 

“I think a man can never be defeated in any situation. So if you keep thinking you can get out of any situation, and you stay focused and determined; who can stop you?” 

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