By: Lisa Thomas-Laury for Action News
PHILADELPHIA - Pa. - June 13, 2012 (WPVI) -- A South Philadelphia high school celebrated its first graduation in seven years Wednesday morning.
Audenried High School became a Universal Companies managed school, under the Philadelphia School district's Renaissance initiative last year.
The class of 2012 is the first to graduate in Audenried's new state of the art school building.
But much more than the environment has changed at Universal Audenried Charter High School.
Of the 140 students eligible to graduate Wednesday morning, 120 completed the graduation march; nearly 85%, and almost 100% of them are going on to higher education.
Bria Canady is going to West Chester University, and Marcus Lockley is heading to Bloomsburg University to study Pre-Occupational Therapy.
Universal Companies founder, Kenny Gamble pushed the school district to close Audenried in 2005 when its graduation rate was no more than 47%.
That made way for a new state of the art facility, and the school reopened during the 2007-2008 school year.
Last year, Universal took over its management, and since then enrollment has increased and attendance is at an all-time high.
"I'm just so proud of them," said Rahim Islam, Universal Companies' President and CEO. "It is just affirmation that when you believe in our young people, and you do the right thing, this is what happens."
The keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony was Philadelphia NAACP President, Jerry Mondesire.
"To stand here with the first graduating class of Audenried Charter High School is a deep, deep honor, and I take it very seriously," Mondesire told the students.
Twins, Darien and Damien Glover ranked second and third in their class..both are heading to Temple to study electrical engineering.
"We took the test in high school, and we thought we should take it in college," said Darien Glover. "We got A's each quarter, and we did it since the 10th grade."
Valedictorian, Batul Al-Ameri will also be going to Temple to study biology and become a pediatrician.
"I made my parents proud," said Batul. "This is one step for my future."
The 2012 class song at Audenried Charter High School was appropriately "Ain't No Stoppin' us Now" by McFaddden and Whitehead and produced by Kenny Gamble.
There are five schools in the Universal School family, and they are all doing well.
(Copyright ©2012 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
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