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Pittsburgh High School Seniors Celebrate Post-Secondary Plans

Mia Mitchell jumped out of her chair and waved her hands in the air pointing to her Lincoln University T-shirt when a Pittsburgh Public Schools administrator read the name of the school she will attend this fall.

The Pittsburgh Promise and PPS hosted the second Senior Signing Day in Oakland to celebrate the future plans of more than 1,000 students.

More than 150 institutions of higher learning were listed Thursday morning, each punctuated with student cheers.

Mitchell plans to study criminal justice.

“I want to help my people because I live in the Hill District and there’s a lot of violence up in the Hill District and I want to be someone’s lawyer so I can help them. I want to stop the violence, stop the killing because there’s so much going on and it’s just horrifying,” she said.

The 18-year-old said she's had to take out loans, but like many of the students at the event, she received funding from the 10-year-old Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program.

“I feel like I’m about to be the next big thing, I’m about to be a lawyer, I’m about to be awesome,” she said.

Speakers encouraged the students to celebrate their success, and find a support group once in college.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet told the students at the event he was proud and looked forward to following their successes. In a press release, he said the students are a prime example of having a post-secondary plan.

“We know our work does not stop until every member of each graduating class leaves with a plan for life after high school,” he said.

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is greeted on stage Thursday at Soldiers and Sailors in Oakland by former Steeler Franco Harris.

Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier stood at the podium wearing a Pro Bowl T-shirt at the Soldiers and Sailors Museum to congratulate the students. Shazier sustained a severe back injury in December after a head-on tackle. He told the students he was unable to move his legs and had spinal stabilization surgery in December.

“Me personally, I went through a lot of adversity with this injury. But, I want to tell you guys that in life we’re all going to go through some type of adversity. We’re all going to go through something. Just always have somebody in your corner that’s strong and always have a great support system,” he said. “Work your tail off and go get them degrees.”

The Pittsburgh Promise also announced a 10-year $2.5 million gift from the PNC Foundation.

“PNC’s support is about more than a financial commitment – it’s about helping high school students in our community realize, and achieve, the promise within themselves post-graduation,” said Sally McCraddy, the chairwoman and president of the PNC Foundation. “Empowering those most in need to realize the next step in their education is essential for the future of our community and, quite simply, the right thing to do.”

The Pittsburgh Promise has invested more than $119 million in scholarships to send more than 8,000 students to post-secondary institutions. Eligible students can earn a maximum scholarship of $5,000 a year from the program.