Published in the Delaware County Daily Times
Delaware County’s Daily Newspaper June 10, 2019
By Joseph Batory, Daily Times Guest Columnist
In each of the past 31 years, a deserving graduate of Upper Darby High School has received some scholarship assistance toward higher education from me.
This newest (2019) Joseph Batory Scholarship awardee is an academically-talented and very personable young man, Michael Duman, who will be a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in September.
Michael, a Clifton Heights resident, had his science talents initially recognized at Drexel Hill Middle School, and he continued to excel at Upper Darby High. He is impressively focused on achievement goals and will major in one of the sciences at Penn.
I have never ceased to be amazed at the products of Upper Darby High School. While many high schools educate students from affluent and basically homogenized communities and regularly get public acclaim, Upper Darby High is significantly underrated yet it has been and continues to be about “making a difference for all young people who come to them.”
The brilliant ones, the achievers who have overcome adversity, the average, the strugglers, the slow learners, and those with special needs all exist in large numbers at Upper Darby High. Indeed, the diversity of Upper Darby High, academically, socio-economically, racially and ethnically, is staggering. Upper Darby’s legacy of success stories for many thousands of pupils from all sorts of backgrounds has been and continues to be exemplary.
I grew up poor in Southwest Philadelphia. My father was a long-term maintenance worker in the General Electric factory in the neighborhood, and our family struggled to make ends meet financially. In addition, I am the grandson of immigrants from Poland. Both of my grandfathers “worked long and hard hours” in the coal mines and suffered lung disease so that future generations of their family would have success in their futures. So, the Joseph Batory Scholarship memorializes my family’s determination despite many hardships.
In 1988, as a relatively new superintendent of schools in the Upper Darby School District, I vowed to somehow make a difference each year for a worthy graduate of the school system. I left the choice of the annual scholarship assistance recipient in the hands of the high school staff…my only selection criteria were: academic potential and financial need.
Now, 31 years later, the financial impacts of my scholarship awards still tug at my heart. Annually, I receive “thank you notes” from my scholarship assistance recipients. Here are two of them:
“Your scholarship help has enabled me to begin my next adventure as
a college student. I have received some financial aid from my college and I
will be using student loans as well. But the impact of your grant has made
a financial difference and opened the door to enrollment for me. I am so
“I am so honored to have received the Joseph Batory Scholarship because
many people consider you to be a legend in the school district. I want to
assure you that the money you have supplied is allowing me to begin my
first year of college. But, more importantly, your gift has filled me with
determination to succeed. Thank you so much!”
Another thing that has amazed me over the past 31 years is the ethnic backgrounds of the recipients. Here are just a few of the Joseph Batory Scholarship awardees names from past years: Kurbaj: Ong; Arsenlis; Ko; Shah; Mozdzanowska; Phan; Khawaja; Ferdaus; Nguyen; Lai; Phung; Hussain and Ansari.
The note below is from a young man who escaped the violence of Syria and found a new life in Upper Darby. It is very moving:
“The Joseph Batory Scholarship is worth much more than its monetary value
because it is really about your belief in me. It also reflects all the fact that the
Upper Darby School District has given to me so much. And it is a reminder of
what makes the diverse Upper Darby community so special. My dream is that I
may someday be able to replicate what you have given to me and my family.”
In a world with too much cynicism and nihilism these days, take heart. There are still good young people among us and many of them are at Upper Darby High School. And each of them has “the right stuff” to make a difference for the better in the future.
Joseph Batory is a past superintendent of schools in the Upper Darby School District. He is the author of three books and numerous published op-ed pieces.