PRPLA students sitting on steps in front of Main Hall.
(Front row) Malithi Desilva, Evelin Cabellero, Mary Onifade, (back row) Andrew Bauch, and Brittany Burke are among the first Port Richmond Partnership Leadership Academy participants to enroll as Wagner undergraduates.

This semester, the first-year class includes eight students who actually started their studies at Wagner College three years ago.

These eight students were in the first cohort of the Port Richmond Partnership Leadership Academy. Founded in 2013 with a grant from the New World Foundation COIN program, this three-year learning experience for students from Port Richmond High School in Staten Island is a pipeline to college attainment and civic engagement for teens who have a lot of potential, but could use a little extra push to achieve it.

Ever since they were rising juniors in high school, these students spent more than a month of each summer working on their academic skills with high school teachers and college professors, and working in community-focused internships with non-profits, schools, and government offices. They continued to meet during the school year and were mentored by Wagner College student leaders.

“I learned how to be more outspoken and open-minded, and how to be more motivated and productive.”

All 12 members of the first cohort are now in college, whether at Wagner or elsewhere. Many of them chose Wagner because of the great support system they had experienced, and are continuing to stay highly involved in community work as participants in Wagner’s Bonner Leaders program, which obliges them to do 300 hours in community work per year at ever-increasing levels of responsibility. (Most of them are also enrolled in the new civic engagement minor launched this fall at Wagner College.)

“I learned how to be more outspoken and open-minded, and how to be more motivated and productive,” says Malithi Desilva of the academy experience — which the students, by the way, have affectionately dubbed PRPLA, pronounced “Purpla.”

Adds Brittany Burke, “I learned that college is not daunting and that everything is possible. My vision statement is that I want to give back the opportunity I’ve been given to someone else.”

Financial support from John “Pat” ’57 H’14 and Marion H’14 Dugan is making this program possible, and Wagner is seeking further underwriting for this program and all of the work organized by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement.