Congratulations Step Up Award Winners!

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools on May 27 announced the latest Portland High School students chosen to receive the Step Up Award, now in its third year. The Step Up Award at Portland High School provides funding for students in the Make It Happen! program who would otherwise have to forego school-year extracurricular opportunities in order to work after school and/or on weekends.

This year, Farhia Gedow and Don Dilamini are the recipients of the Step Up Award. Farhia, a rising junior at Portland High School, will receive $1,250 per semester until graduation. New to the program this year is an additional, one-time scholarship to a rising senior, which was awarded to Don Dilamini.

An awards ceremony took place remotely on May 27. Portland Mayor Kate Snyder; Portland Public School Superintendent Xavier Botana; award creators Bill and Ann Weber; Foundation for Portland Public Schools Executive Director Andi Weisman Summers; Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson; and Make It Happen! staff members Danielle Wong and Tim Cronin spoke at the event.

Make It Happen! is a college readiness program designed for high school English language learner students. Students who attend Portland’s three high schools work closely with Site Coordinators, volunteers, and community partners to build competitive academic profiles for college admission and learn how to navigate and access financial aid. In addition, Make it Happen! students are encouraged to take challenging classes, improve their standardized test scores, engage in leadership activities, community service, and career readiness opportunities.

The Step Up Award is the creation of Ann and Bill Weber, parents of two PHS graduates, who state: “We know kids are more motivated to come to school because of extracurricular activities. The opportunity to work as a team or lead a group effort is invaluable to growth and developing leadership skills and can often lead to better grades. Many kids aren’t able to take full advantage of extracurricular activities because of family responsibilities or the need to supplement the family income. The Step Up Award allows deserving kids a chance to grow and mature and become more productive citizens through involvement with athletic or co-curricular activities. We are especially pleased to recognize additional contributions from the community that will allow us to award a second senior this year who has demonstrated a strong interest in community involvement.”

Eight students applied for the award. Farhia Gedow, who moved to the United States from Kenya in 2010, was selected for her academic prowess and commitment to excellence in all of her endeavors. She dreams of attending Bowdoin to major in biology and going on to become a physician. Don Dilamini, who moved to Portland from South Africa in 2018, also excels academically and has been involved in a range of volunteer work, sports, and clubs. Don is extremely driven and plans to pursue a degree in engineering.

“The Portland Public Schools is very grateful to the Weber family for providing our students with the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, giving them the chance to engage more fully in the educational experiences offered at our schools,” Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “This family’s generosity is a prime example of how individuals and other community partners can truly make a difference in the lives of our students by supporting the Foundation for Portland Public Schools and its goal of improving the opportunities available to PPS students.”

For more information about this award or FPPS, visit https://www.foundationforpps.org/ and/or contact FPPS Executive Director Andi Weisman Summers at 207-400-1151 or asummers@foundationforpps.org.