Lynn Wallace was confident that her foster daughter Samiria would get a chance to attend the nation's first charter high school for teens in foster care.
But she couldn't help breathing a sigh of relief when she learned that Samiria had drawn 111 - a winning number in Arise Academy Charter High School's first enrollment lottery yesterday.
"She made it. Yes!" Wallace exclaimed. "Hot dog!"
After more than four years of planning, Arise Academy Charter High School is scheduled to open in September at 1118 Market St.
Enrollment at the school is strictly voluntary and is designed to provide additional support and a stable education for teens who otherwise would be forced to switch schools when they move to other foster families or facilities.
The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC), a nonprofit that founded the school with help from the city's Department of Human Services, has designed a program that will allow the students to learn at their own pace.
Jill Welsh Davis, president of the Arise board and one of the driving forces behind the school, noted that researchers found that more than 75 percent of Philadelphia students in foster care between 2000 and 2004 dropped out of school.
"They had become an invisible population of kids," Davis said.
After abandoning a plan to try to open a boarding school for foster teens, the coalition decided to apply for a charter school. The school's operating charter allows it to restrict enrollment to city teens in foster care.
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission gave the unusual school conditional approval last spring, but delayed the opening of Arise and six other charters because of the district's financial problems. Arise finally got the green light this year and was authorized to enroll 200 students.
Despite little publicity, the school received applications from 224 teens in foster care.
Because state law requires charter school boards to choose students by lottery if more students apply than a school has seats, Arise scheduled yesterday's lunchtime selection.
"There were times I would have bet we would never be here," said Mark Spector, a former deputy managing director for the school district who is treasurer of the charter board. "This is a significant milestone to celebrate in the life of a charter school."
He and Davis said the names of teens who landed in spots 201 to 224 in the Arise lottery will be placed on a waiting list.
Applicants did not have to be present to win a spot in the lottery, and despite strong interest in Arise, Wallace and two other women were the only guardians attending the lottery yesterday at the coalition's office in Center City.
The room cheered Nanice Macey, a former foster child, who is now the guardian of her younger sister, who drew 29 in the lottery. And everyone applauded Ann Baker, a DHS social-worker liaison whose 15-year-old adoptive granddaughter, who had been living in a group home, came up with 92.
Macey, 28, a graduate of the YouthBuild Charter School in North Philadelphia, said she began investigating Arise for her sister Jyqueen, 15, as soon as she heard about it.
Baker, whose adoptive granddaughter has been in and out of foster care and shuffled among schools since she was 6, said: "I think she needs to be with kids and staff who are sensitive to what she has experienced in her life in foster care."
Wallace, whose 16-year-old foster daughter has spent two years in ninth grade, said she thinks the self-paced instruction at Arise is just what the teen needs to catch up.
"The way this school is set up, they meet you where you are," Wallace said. "It's going to be good. She's going to make it."