When Mirranda Cunningham was younger, she didn’t think she wanted to go to college.

Now the teen, a strong student at Frankford High, thinks of higher education as a path to a better life. And soon, she will have a road map for how she can get there someday.

Thanks to a $5 million U.S. Department of Education grant announced Wednesday, the Philadelphia Education Fund will expand a college-access program that provides full-time, in-school guidance, one-on-one advising, and campus visits, as well as other offerings over the course of students’ high school careers. The program offered by the nonprofit, which provides education services and scholarships for Philadelphia schools and students, will serve nearly 2,000 kids — 500 at Frankford.

The college access model exists at five city schools — Bartram, Furness, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts, Roxborough, and Olney Charter. It will now expand to Frankford, a large, high-needs high school where Cunningham, a junior, and her classmates will have access to resources beginning in January.

Farah Jimenez, Education Fund CEO, reminded students gathered in Frankford’s auditorium Wednesday of something her immigrant parents told her after they fled Cuba penniless — education is the only thing nobody can take away from you.

“Education remains life’s most durable good,” Jimenez said.

For Michael Calderone, Frankford’s principal, the outside resources are a game-changer, a way to start students thinking as freshmen about what comes after high school, whether it’s college or career.

“It’s going to serve these kids in ways you almost can’t dream of in these current budget situations,” said Calderone. “It’s an opportunity for our kids, and one that’s long overdue.”

Frankford, with nearly 1,000 students, has four counselors who are “so overburdened responding to mental health and trauma issues,” especially in this pandemic year, said Calderone. Removing some of the college and career piece from their plates will positively affect students on multiple levels, he said.

Of the students at Frankford, about 18% go on to some form of higher education. The overall college acceptance rate for the district is 47%.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said that the partnership will “enhance a postsecondary culture for our students” and that the education fund’s support “will help us bridge a gap to access in education.”

State Rep. Jason Dawkins (D., Phila.), a 2002 Frankford graduate on hand for the announcement, said he wished he had access to such a program as a high school student.

He didn’t even know he had to take the SAT to go to college, said Dawkins; instead, he rented a U-Haul and drove to Atlanta, where a friend was a student at Clark Atlanta University. He arrived on campus thinking he could enroll in classes but instead worked at a shoe store in a mall, took the SAT, and formulated another plan.

“You have a very unique opportunity,” Dawkins told students. “I look forward to all of you rising to the occasion.”

Frankford junior Malinda Saunders plans on taking Dawkins’ advice to heart. She wants to go to college to study business, but she’d be the first person in her family to tackle higher education.

“It’s stressful,” said Saunders. “I feel like this will help a lot.”