QCHS offers ‘unparalleled’ opportunities

Whether a student plans to attend college or join the workforce, diverse options are available for post-high school success.
Posted on 04/28/2021
Elizabeth Hilton stands with her Penn State pennant.By Gary Weckselblatt

If a student is seeking an opportunity to become college or career ready, Quakertown Community High School has all of the preparation needed for success.

A survey of the 2020 class showed that the 85 responding graduates were offered $6.4 million in scholarships from the schools they applied to and ultimately accepted awards of $1.7 million. Combined with classes at the Upper Bucks County Technical School, the opportunity to begin a career right out of high school may also be an option.

“I would encourage students to pursue their passion,” said Douglas Detweiler, a high school counselor. “We have so many options. Challenge yourself with a rigorous academic course load, but know what your balance is. GPA and standardized test scores are important but so are community service and leadership. Leadership is developed within their passion. That’s what people look for: passion, achievement, and leadership. Academics is very important but it’s not the only piece.”

QCHS provides a diverse curriculum that boasts 28 Advanced Placement courses, 32 Honors courses, rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses through Project Lead The Way, dual enrollment partnerships with Bucks County Community College, access to a state-of-the-art TV production studio, cooking lab, dance studio and other specialized learning environments, including a state champion music program, plus the ability to join dozens of clubs and organizations and a staff of teachers second to none.

If you’re inspired to lead, QCHS can help you succeed. Here are some examples:

Matt CatalanoMatt Catalano: The QCHS senior has accepted a presidential scholarship from Villanova, which awards only 25 each year to a class of approximately 1,700 incoming students. As a Presidential Scholar, Matt’s tuition and room and board is paid for and includes a stipend for books each year.

Elizabeth HiltonElizabeth Hilton: The QCHS senior has accepted the 2021 McKinstry Scholarship from Penn State. It pays full tuition and half of on-campus room and board costs to study Biology or Pre-Medicine at PSU’s University Park campus. Elizabeth’s acceptance into the school’s Schreyer Honors College awards her an additional $5,000 each year.

Raymond SliferRaymond Slifer: The QCHS senior, who also attends the Upper Bucks County Technical School, is a Cooperative Education student trainee employed by Bracalente Manufacturing Group in Trumbauersville. He is enrolled in the UBCTS/Bucks County Community College Technical Entrepreneurship Program and will seek his associate’s degree upon graduation. He will then transfer to Pennsylvania College of Technology and major in Manufacturing Engineering while continuing to work. At this point, he’s unsure what his college costs will be.

Mr. Detweiler’s letter of recommendation helped Matt land Villanova’s presidential scholarship. And although Matt is among the school’s finest students - receiving a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program and becoming a candidate for the United States Presidential Scholars Program - Mr. Detweiler said Matt’s strength is not his innate ability to learn. It’s “his love to learn and work ethic” that built his incredible resume. “He puts perspiration into it.”

Matt has taken 16 AP courses at QCHS. And while that could be a challenging workload, he was also captain of the boys basketball team for three years and president of both Key Club and the National Honor Society. Within those groups he has developed leadership skills by being part of food drives for the Quakertown Food Pantry, joining Best Buddies to become a mentor to elementary school students and coaching young students in a spring basketball league.

“Our school offers opportunities that are unparalleled anywhere,” Matt said. “There are so many ways to get involved with things you’re passionate about. I really enjoyed serving the community through different projects. It was really rewarding.”

Elizabeth’s high school experience is similar to Matt’s in that she has taken 14 AP classes, is enrolled in two BCCC classes, and is involved in a host of activities. She’s vice president of NHS and is part of Key Club, Technology Student Association, Future Business Leaders of America, Mini-THON and Student Council. She is also an Ambassador Girl Scout and has served as a student volunteer at St. Luke’s Hospital.

“My experience has been that colleges want to see you involved in more than academics,” said Elizabeth, who plans a career in pediatrics. “They want you to have moved forward with ways to help the community, that you have a focus on how to use your strengths to help others.”

Raymond, Pennsylvania’s only Career and Technical Education semifinalist candidate in the 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and one of 56 nationwide, has been involved with NHS and the National Technical Honors Society, in addition to SkillsUSA. He’s an Eagle Scout and a junior firefighter with the Richlandtown Fire Co.

Raymond said QCHS and UBCTS “have anything and everything” to prepare students for success. And that may mean jumping directly into the workforce. “A lot of my friends are doing really well,” he said. “College isn’t for everyone. They want to learn as much as they can through working. That’s a different way to learn and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

As well-rounded as the high school’s academic program and student experiences have been, they are going to be further enhanced with the implementation of Career Pathways. Career Pathways is a program designed to empower students to shape their postsecondary future by engaging them through active inquiry, problem based learning, personalized learning experiences and rigorous academic programming aligned to the ever-changing workforce trends. Within the Pathways framework, opportunities will exist for exploration, skill development, and cultivating connections with local and national industries to help prepare students to positively contribute to and lead a competitive global workforce.

“We are focused on evolving classroom instruction within all curriculum to make content more real world relevant for students,” said Assistant Principal Jennifer Carolla. “One of the goals of the Career Pathways program is to engage students more in the learning process. Through increasing relevance and highlighting the real world applicability of skills being taught, learning becomes more engaging and meaningful to students. It also becomes more self-directed as students select course work in a particular pathway that aligns with their interests and passions. Increased student interest and motivation combined with teacher/student mentoring through our Pathways advisory groups should yield even higher overall academic achievement.

"We already have a strong foundation of academics at the high school but through Pathways, we are working to strengthen and further build upon the great work that is happening here. Pathways is meant to help all students at QCHS discover their interests and develop their skill sets to put them in a position to excel when they leave us.”

Mrs. Carolla explained that through the Pathways process and the program’s field study component, students will have experiences in their chosen field. “The technical and soft skills, experiences and self-awareness acquired will set our students apart in their attempts to gain scholarships or acceptance to college or earn a position in the workforce,” she said. “These authentic experiences will make them that much more confident and marketable regardless of the post secondary path they choose.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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