Photography by James Mosley

Isaiah Gonzalez was the smart one, the one who was supposed to make it out of Kensington in a cap and gown, headed for college and better things.

He did well in classes, graduating from his public high school with five acceptance letters to colleges and universities, but as it is for so many Philadelphians, higher education remained beyond his grasp. Financial aid forms were tough to navigate, and at the end of the day, even with aid, the price was too steep.

While 67 percent of all Philadelphia School District students graduate from high school in four years, just 27 percent of all city residents hold bachelor’s degrees, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts-lower than the national average. For some, college isn’t the right path. And for many, life just gets in the way.

Gonzalez always dreamed of giving his family something to be proud about. Two of his older brothers were locked up on murder charges and are serving long prison sentences.

College wasn’t an option for him, but he wanted to help pay his family’s bills after graduation. He found work clerking in a sneaker store, driving shuttle vans for an airport hotel. Some people in the neighborhood told him those were good jobs, but he thought differently.

Earlier this year, he got a call that changed his life. Gonzalez’ old high school counselor had heard about a pilot program administered by nonprofit social service agency JEVS Human Services and aimed at transitioning hardworking students into the real world. Read more about Isaiah and how our partnership with Einstein helped put him on a path toward a successful career in The Philadelphia Inquirer.



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