Andrew Knight wanted to attend the University of Pittsburgh since he was 8 years old.
“At first it was for a sport,” he said, “but as I grew older I have seen how amazing Pitt is as an academic powerhouse, and I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.”
Knight, the 2018 valedictorian from Perry High School in northern Pittsburgh, is among 10 students who make up the inaugural class of Pittsburgh Public Scholars, a program and partnership between Pitt and Pittsburgh Public Schools to help make education affordable and accessible to the city’s most accomplished students.
Through the program, announced in 2017, all valedictorians and salutatorians of the Pittsburgh Public Schools are offered guaranteed admission to any Pitt campus and financial support for four years. This includes Allderdice High School, Brashear High School, CAPA 6-12, Carrick High School, Milliones 6-12 University Preparatory School, Obama 6-12, Perry High School, Science and Technology Academy and Westinghouse Academy. As part of this program, Pitt will meet the full financial need for Pittsburgh Public Scholars who also are Pell Grant recipients.
University leaders welcomed the first class of Pittsburgh Public Scholars at a reception on Aug. 23 in Bruce Hall.
“Welcoming our inaugural class of Pittsburgh Public Scholars fulfills a promise that we made to our community one year ago,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “This promise — to invest in our city’s top-performing students and support their success — created doors of opportunity that didn’t exist before. And, today, these doors have swung wide open, revealing a brighter future for our University, the city of Pittsburgh and these talented young students.”
Anthony Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, added: “We are grateful to the University of Pittsburgh for its continued commitment to the academic success of our students. Today we celebrate impressive district graduates who will continue their education due to the generosity of the University through the Pittsburgh Public Scholars program.”
Close to home
Jeremy Berardo said the program provides an opportunity to undertake new and exciting educational opportunities in his hometown.
“Campus is very close to home, and the opportunities for educational advancement are endless,” said Berardo, a 2018 salutatorian from Carrick High School who plans to pursue a medical career. “I like being close enough to home to run back if I need anything but still being away while submerging myself in my education.”
The program expands upon the Pittsburgh Admissions Collaboration (PAC), a Pitt partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) to make higher education more attainable for Pittsburgh students. PAC supports high school juniors and seniors who pursue higher education through initial studies at CCAC with the goal of transferring to Pitt to complete their degrees.
A pathway to success
This first group of scholars includes four first-generation college students. One of them, Knight, said he feels the “weight as heavy as the world” on his shoulders but knows he has strong support from his family.
“They always made sure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in my stomach no matter how hard things got,” said Knight, who plans to pursue a career teaching high school-level English. “I hope to make them proud by being their first child to complete a four-year education at any university.”
Noor Nader, a 2018 salutatorian from Brashear High School who plans to study microbiology and pursue a pre-med track, said her parents inspire her to do her best and never give up.
“They always tell me nothing is impossible if you truly want it,” she said. “Where I am today is because of my parents.”