Proving that a high school can have a cheerleading team even when there are no school teams to cheer for, girls from Camelot’s Excel Academy North have formed the school’s first cheerleading squad. To celebrate the team’s formation, four cheerleaders from the Philadelphia Eagles visited the school on Bustleton Avenue to share some dancing tips and life advice.
The Eagles cheerleaders talked about the sacrifices required to become successful. One key piece of advice: more practice and less partying.
The Camelot girls talked about their plans to go on to college and shared some of their original routines with the Eagles cheerleaders. The Eagles cheerleaders in turn, showed the Camelot girls some of the dances they perform at Eagles games, including forming the letters in the famous E-A-G-L-E-S chant.
Excel Academy North teacher Allison Lloyd, who coaches the team, says the get-together worked just as planned and that her girls had a day they won’t forget.
Without traditional high school teams, the cheerleading squad performs at intermural games and at pep rallies.
Camelot accelerated schools work in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to educate students who have dropped out or fallen two or more years behind in their grade level. More than 95 percent of Camelot accelerated high school students graduate, with most advancing to post-secondary education or the military.
With the rich history of contributions to this country by African Americans, it’s fitting that opportunities to celebrate Black History Month are taking a 21st century turn.
For example, digital cable subscribers can access educational, entertaining and inspirational programming whenever they want just by clicking the On Demand button on their remote control.
Programs and movies suitable for all audiences include:
• Milestones in Black History: A look at the history of the struggles and strife, the tragedies and the triumphs of African Americans in the U.S., including programming on the Civil Rights era. Everyone in the family can get in on the learning, with documentaries like “The Black List” examining some of the reasons for Black History Month. And kids young and old can take a trip back in time as they understand the importance of historical events with “Seizing Justice: The Greensboro 4,” “On the Shoulders of Giants” and “Birds of a Feather: Tuskegee Airmen.”
• Profiles in Courage: The biographies of influential African Americans come to life with dramatic profiles and stories of acclaimed leaders and others who are not so well known — but perhaps should be, such as that of Lena Baker in “Hope & Redemption: The Lena Baker Story.”
• Dramas: Programs and movies like “Independence Day,” showcasing award-worthy performances from notable African-American actors like Will Smith. You can also explore and share real-life family relationship dramas like “Braxton Family Values.”
• Hearth and Home: Savor shows like “Down Home with the Neelys” that provide a look at the food and other aspects of modern African-American society.
• Of the People: Program content that exemplifies the contributions made by multicultural talent, shows written by, starring, directed or produced by African Americans like Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby.”
• Powerful Portrayals: Storytelling has always been an important part of African-American culture. Drama fans can enjoy Black cinema offerings, which chronicle the challenges of African-American protagonists in a variety of ways.
• That’s Entertainment: Laugh along with comedy specials such as “Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker,” or let romantic comedies warm the heart. If music is your thing, there are shows and movies like “Ray,” the story of one of America’s true musical geniuses, Ray Charles, that look into the past and present music-making of African-American artists. — (NAPSI)
To see the auditorium stage filled with xylophones, keyboards and bucket drums (tall trash cans) is a vast difference from the once barren landscape of simply desks and chairs that was once called the music room.
Seven years ago, the music department at General George G. Meade School was introduced to Musicopia — a non-profit organization that restores musical education programs in schools. Through this partnership, students were given resources, opportunities and dreams of musical talents.
Recently, the Knight Foundation, through its Knight Arts Challenge, gave Musicopia a $90,000 grant which will be used for programming at Meade.
“We built it and they came. That’s how I can describe it. The kids are very humble and appreciative. They’re now going to be well resourced as their suburban contemporaries. So the playing field has now been leveled — which is wonderful,” Meade music teacher, Patrick Urban said.
This 2006 Temple University alum has spent his six-year career teaching musical education at Meade. Along with learning about instruments, rhythms and notes, students learn discipline and respect.
“When I walked in [the school], I could tell that there was something special about the music program, but it wasn’t until I saw the management. Mr. Urban can walk away and the kids can play. It’s a seamless operation. That’s what you see in these kids. They monitor one another, so it’s amazing just to see,” Principal Rosalind Tharpe said.
“He’s a rocking teacher because he teaches us stuff that we like to play,” fourth-grader and cellist, Tony White said.
“He comes up with the coolest beats,” fourth-grader Ashanti Armstrong said.
Fourth-grader, Tatyana Owens plays violin and xylophone. She expressed her sentiments about having music class.
“My favorite thing is that you get to learn how to use different instruments. I love the violin because I always wanted to play it since the third grade. I wanted to play the violin because it’s just a calm instrument and it’s fun to play,” Owens said.
She even mentioned that she wants to continue her musical studies in high school.
“When you get to high school, you could be famous when you get older. People will want to learn from you,” Owens said.
Urban also leads an after-school drumline program. Executive director of Musicopia, Denise Kinney said the drumline program enriches students’ lives.
“This is really an alternative. They perform and compete across the tri-county area. It’s very based on discipline and commitment and hard work and all the things you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Kinney said.
“I would like to be apart of the drumline because they make awesome beats and watching them inspires me to make music,” fourth-grader Jhyir Champion said.
“I think it’s a very empowering program and empowerment is very important to a community that is very often disempowered. So that’s why this is such a transformative program,” Urban said.
From the grant, Meade will continue to develop more musical opportunities for students.
“The Musicopia program is apart of the Meade culture. I’d like to see that program extend and grow. I’d [like] us to have a choir,” Tharpe said.
Eighth and quarter notes squeaked out of clarinets and saxophones. Half and whole notes blared out of the trombone and trumpets, as the nine member music class practiced several measures of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Music teacher, Jesse Mell had the class clap the rhythm of the song.
“Ta ta, ta ta, ta ta,” the class clapped.
On the count of three, a trombone, four clarinets, two trumpets and two saxophones played several measures and periodically stopped to go over playing technicques.
Trombone player, Brittany Washington was a previous violin musician. Although a novice, she kept with the tempo of the band and as her cheeks filled with air, she glided the brass instrument into a serious of sliding positions.
“I was used to holding the violin with my chin. It’s difficult because with the violin all you have to remember is the chords, [now] you have to remember the positions and notes,” Washington said.
She comes from a musical family. Her brother plays clarinet and sister plays violin. Although she practices for two hours a day, Washington said Mell’s assistance is helpful.
“Mr. Mell is an awesome teacher. He’s fun. He tells us when we’re wrong. If you mess up he’s like, ‘OK,’ try again. Let’s see if you can do it again,’” Washington said.
For “Bille Jean,” Mell explained the A flat to C, or position three, for trombone to Washington.
Last year the Jones musical students put on a regional arts festival at the Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School.
“It was really cool because getting everyone a chance to come together and see that we could really have a consistent music program start at the primary middle school level and move up to high school and have that continuity,” Mell said. “Kids get to eighth grade and then they have no options, because if they don’t go to a magnet high school a lot of the time the band program isn’t there in the high school. So we’re trying to make life long music learners.”
Mell said his goals are to encourage students to study music and see the value of playing an instrument.
“Making kids understand that what’s fun is not always worth while and vice versa. I always say, ‘Fun is playing X-box or jumping in a pool, but this is really something that you’re building a life skill for.’ Just getting them to see the long-term vision of where it’s going to take them, the doors that it could open or just the value of sticking with something.” Mell said.
In Lindsey McGarrigle’s reading enrichment class, fifth- and sixth-grade students began reading a new fiction book, “A Likely Place” by Paula Fox.
As students flipped to page 109, McGarrigle posed a question to the class.
“How do you react when adults think they know how you feel?” McGarrigle said.
“I get angry sometimes. If I’m sad they just automatically think I’m happy,” sixth-grader Joshau Berger said.
Fan of science fiction novels, Berger and his peers have tested out of the corrective reading program. During the enrichment course, students are challenged to tackle higher levels of reading and writing. Recently, the class participated in a school wide writing contest in which they wrote scripts for a movie, talk show or courthouse drama based on literature read in class.
“There’s a lot of kids that match my level,” sixth-grader Krizm Rosario said.
The class reads the passage out loud.
“Popcorn, Seriphim,” sixth-grader Umiko Webb said.
Webb passed the reading responsibility to Seriphim Bey, which is an activity that is often practiced during class.
In a third floor classroom, calculators, workbooks and pencils covered the desks of eighth-graders Nazsha Gonzales, Crystal Hernandez and Nilda Mojica. The three girls were practicing scientific notation in preparation for the PSSA tests.
Gonzales said she enjoys math the most, but plans to attend Kensington CAPA and major in dance.
Mojica said she enjoyed the class trips to the Philadelphia Zoo and to a St. Joseph’s University basketball game.
Although schoolwork may seem overwhelming, Hernandez said Jones is preparing her for high school.
“They give us a lot of writing to prepare us. We work more than any other grade in the school. That gives a chance to get use to it,” Hernandez said.
Mayor Michael Nutter joined Germantown High School (GHS) principal, Margaret Mullen, to recognize students involved with The Stained Glass Project for their recent trip to New Orleans.
Underwritten by Firstrust Bank, students donated stained glass windows to the Morris Jeff Community School, located in a neighborhood that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The Stained Glass Project teaches students about the importance of being active members of the community and giving back to others in need.
Students, Oyinkansola Adekitan, Deshawn Brewer, Janai Dallas, Nana Yaw Effah, Cornell Gilliland, Marie-Jean Haba and Dywanne Smith, went on the trip and presented Mayor Nutter with a ceremonial stained glass windowpane during an assembly held at GHS.
The Stained Glass Project is part of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown After-School program. This program is run by volunteer artists who work with teenagers from GHS, most of whom have never made art before. Students and artists are of varied ages, races, religions and nationalities, working in collaboration to make art for children they never met. In previous projects, the GHS students have created stained glass windows for AIDS orphans in South Africa. Artists, Joan Myerson Shrager and Paula Mandel, founded this program five years ago to inspire students to change the world through art.
To help parents and caregivers faced with the ever-challenging task of preparing healthful school lunches that kids will actually eat, registered dietitian Sarah Wally offers a few tips:
• Include all food groups. A balanced lunch is a healthful lunch. Follow the MyPlate meal- planning model and pack a serving or two from each of the following categories: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and protein. Vegetables and fruits should account for roughly half of the meal.
• Keep foods safe. Making sure hot foods stay hot and cool foods stay cool is imperative to keep food-borne illness at bay. Insulated thermoses are a great option for storing soups or warm pasta. Adding a frozen juice box to your kid’s lunch bag creates an instant ice pack to keep cool items chilled and it will defrost just in time to enjoy at lunch. As a bonus, just 4 ounces of 100 percent juice counts as a serving (half a cup) of fruit.
• Get the kids involved. Asking your children to help plan their weekly lunches lets them feel important and in control. Share with them your criteria for a healthy lunch and then give them some options to choose from. Kids will enjoy a break from repetitious lunches and learn a bit about creating healthful meals.
• Use lunchtime as a way to connect. A handwritten note can be a surprising, sentimental way to reconnect with your kids. Use a napkin to write a few words of encouragement before that after-lunch test or important soccer game. It can make their day.
Recipe for a healthful lunchbox
• Choose whole-grain breads and crackers for added fiber.
• Pack 100 percent juice, providing vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds called phytonutrients.
• Stick to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
• Help your kids to “eat the rainbow” by offering a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
For more information, log on to www.fruitjuicefacts.org.
Five students simultaneously plucked the strings of their guitars as sneakers tapped the floor to keep the song’s tempo. Their eyes shifted to follow the chords written on the sheet music as Alandra Abrams led the ensemble by playing her black guitar.
The semi-circle of seventh-grade musicians played “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the theme song from the “Lion King” and “My Heart Will Go On,” theme song of the movie, “Titanic.”
Praise Idowu, James Lee, Iris Green, Niaundria Stevenson and Laurencia Duroseau were a part the ensemble of musicians who spent their lunch period practicing.
“When you play guitar, sometimes it can soothe you and make you feel better when you’re feeling down,” Green said. “It’s actually fun playing the guitar — and it’s actually fun learning how to play different kinds of songs, so I like this music class.”
“I think the excitement that they bring when they finally get it — just to see them shine. They come in excited. If I tell them we’re not doing guitar, some of them actually have a fit,” Abrams said.
Abrams has taught at Tilden for 17 years, but has been teaching for over 23 years. After attending a weekend workshop sponsored by the School District of Philadelphia, Abrams began teaching guitar to students. Receiving funding from the Little Kids Rock grant, a classroom set of guitars was purchased for students.
“They can express themselves in ways they can’t if they don’t have an instrument in their hands. I rather see them have a guitar and express themselves this way through music than aggressive ways,” Abrams said.
She also teaches choir to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades. In the afternoon, sixth-grade classes learn to play bells, recorders and receive technology-based music learning on computers. Seventh-graders receive guitar and keyboard lessons during class.
“You bring the atmosphere to your kids. If you have the right attitude as a teacher you can change their behavior and I think music is a perfect way to do it because it gets to them,” Abrams said.
Some of the students are novices to guitar playing, but others have grown-up in musical families. Lee’s father played guitar. Duroseau’s mother played the harp. She now plays four instruments: piano, harp, cello and guitar.
Stevenson’s father and grandfather have played guitar. She said she would like to play clarinet and flute, but guitar is her favorite so far. She even uses her grandfather’s personal guitar to play in class.
“I grew up doing it,” Stevenson said. ‘My family is basically all about music so that’s why I play guitar.”
The first instrument that Idowu learned was guitar. He began playing at 7 years old.
“Watching people on the TV sing songs and play guitar sort of pushed me to be educated about the guitar,” Idowu said.
Through personal experience, Abrams said her middle school teacher encouraged her to be active with music. Abrams said she wants to translate the lessons she learned from her former teacher to her students at Tilden.
“I’m tough on them, but she was tough on me. She showed me love, and I show them love. I’m tough, but I show love and they know it,” Abrams said.
The Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition has held its first-ever student video contest. Eighty-one inventive videos produced by more than300 middle and high school students from Philadelphia public and charter schools were invited to submit 30- to 60-second videos answering the question, “Why is math and/or science important to you?”
The mission of the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition is to engage youth and increase their interest in learning mathematics and science. The Coalition wants students in Philadelphia schools to excel in these areas.
After a public online vote and final judging by a panel of Apple representatives, two winning student-created videos were celebrated at James Dobson Elementary School and Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. Ceremonies were held at separately.
Emceed by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Scott Palmer, the events featured appearances by the Phillie Phanatic, the Science Cheerleaders and the contest judges from Apple.
The “Radical Math” video from eighth-grade students Rebecca Gallagher, A’Jahnae Adams, Imani Collier, Timothy Mitchell and Trevor Loughrey of Dobson was selected as the winner in the middle school division. Their teacher, Allison McConnell, sponsored them.
As a seventh- and eighth-grade math and science teacher at Dobson, McConnell said she frequently hears her students asking the purpose of math and science in their daily lives, and was thrilled when she came across this contest.
“It’s one of the biggest questions I get. I thought this would be a great opportunity for the kids to explore why [math and science] was important to them,” McConnell said.
She credits the video entirely to the efforts of the students. Next year, McConnell said she would encourage more students to submit videos.
“I think that a piece of it is because they created it, it allowed them to have more pride. Rather than me say, ‘How about you do this?’ I really left it up to them, and it was entirely student-guided,” she said.
In the high school division, “A Letter Made Possible with Science” video from tenth-grader Alec Stith of Boys Latin won. His sponsor teacher Trey Smith supported him.
Student winners received $100 in iTunes gift certificates, $250 worth of classroom materials and a class trip to a professional recording studio donated by recording artist Jill Scott.
The Philadelphia Education Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides funding for various educational programs and initiatives. In 2005, the Fund assembled the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition to address the quality of math and science instruction in schools in lieu of a national demand. The Coalition has partnerships with representatives from corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations and the School District of Philadelphia.
As science teacher and chess team coach, Karen O’Hara called her seventh-grade students up to her desk to check grades, Nigeria Parker and Marquis James finished sketching the moon cycle project. Gemanael Parks and Shaakira Wilson spent time answering a constructive response question: What causes wind?
“Science is my favorite subject because I get to do experiments,” Parker said.
Throughout the year, students in this Amedee F. Bregy School science class learned about radiation, cells, DNA, volcanoes, space, the atmosphere and environment. The next unit will focus on plants. However, Bregy students take enrichment courses as well.
Principal Christopher Wiler has spent his first year establishing several student-focused programs. Students have instrumental music, guitar club, choir, chess club, peer mediation and peer tutoring. There are additional programs such as the Eat Right Dietary Program, Head Start, Reading is Fundamental and anti-bullying workshops.
“It’s not just the academics that make one successful in life. There’s other skills you can acquire,” Wiler said.
His goals for the remaining months of the school year are to increase reading and math proficiency, build self-esteem of students, teach students how to encounter problems and solve problems peacefully.
“Children need someone to believe in them and when someone does believe in them they do step up to the plate. I just believe that we have to rally around the kids and make them feel important,” Wiler said.
Staff members who believed in Wiler’s vision made implementation of these goals possible.
“There’s a staff here that they love the children. There’s such a resiliency with the staff here. It’s phenomenal. The children really want someone who truly cares for them,” Wiler said. “Since September, it’s just the dynamics of the relationships within the building between the teachers and the students. There’s a community here.”
Teacher leader Dr. Karen Chamberlain has met with students, worked with teachers on professional development and focused on increasing PSSA scores.
“I really feel very welcomed here at this school. It’s like one big family and the people are so nice. We all collaborated together. We talk to each other. I really don’t mind getting up in the morning and coming to work because it feels good. There’s no pressure, but we get things done,” Chamberlain said.
Fifth-year counselor Lisa Bronca, has taught violence and bullying prevention programs in classrooms, social skills and personal safety. She also helps eighth-grade students apply and transition into high school.
“I get really excited around this time of year when they start to get their acceptances and a lot of our kids go to some of the best schools in Philadelphia,” Bronca said.
Bregy receives support from the Home and School Association, too. President Danielle Zaidan has led the organization with event planning, fundraisers, weekly pretzel sales, monthy bake sales, healthy snacks on Fridays, the Santa’s Secret shop and the Valentine’s Day dances.
Wiler called Zaidan a phenomenal person because of her dedication to the school and students.
“These parents are just great. They helped with everything. They make life so much easier around here. Just anything that I ask them to do, they’re willing to be a part of it and do what they can do,” Chamberlain said.
The Home and School Association led the Reading is Fundamental Book Fair Feb. 13 through Feb. 17. Several tables were stacked with picture and chapter books, stationery items and colorful bookmarks. During the week of book selling, fifth-grader Kevin Khounkhamtan spent time looking for a new book. He said he enjoys reading because he learns new words.
Eighth-grade student council members Jamie Storms, president, Jayson Dougherty, vice president, Isabella Beate, treasurer and Kiera King,
secretary have seen Bregy transition under the new leadership of Wiler.
“The learning is definitely the best. The teachers are supportive. They always help you if you have a problem,” Dougherty said.
These students are still waiting to hear from their high schools.
Students like Beate have other responsibilities at Bregy. As school safety captain, she makes sure students get on their bus safely after-school.
“It’s more of a learning experience as you’re on the job. You start to see familiar faces,” Beate said.
“You get to help the students out,” eighth-grader Lavance Webb said.
“I’m not a safety, but I’d definitely know that I’d feel respected. I would feel honored to get picked to take that type of responsibility and get that job put in your hands,” Dougherty said.
In room 13, Sue Woolbert’s fourth-grade class drew a three-dimensional street with stores for their art projects. Nymerah King colored her picture using orange, yellow and red crayons known as the warm colors. Chyah Rhames colored her project with “cool colors” of blue, purple and green. Amanda Clancy said drawling the street was her favorite part of the project.
Despite the ability to express themselves in class, these students are engaged in reaching advanced levels on the PSSAs.
Michael Degori said he was ready for the tests and for fifth-grade.
“[Woolbert] is cool even though we never had a teacher that keeps pushing us. It’s really werid,” Degori said.
In room eight, Valerie Mestichelli collected students’ math tests. Third-grader Amy Zhang said she enjoys math lessons.
“I like mostly learning about the right angles and the intersecting lines, since they’re new to me. I’ve been learning it since the first time my teacher taught me how to do it,” she said.
Zhang said she likes to draw, read, play piano and be with friends when she is bored.
As part of a math project, Ariana V. Flores, a fifth-grade student of the Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), contacted the Philadelphia Affiliate of Komen for the Cure via email to assist her with a class project. After explaining why she chose the organization because of her grandmother’s loss to breast cancer, Flores met the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate CEO, Elaine Grobman, to learn more about the foundation. Since their meeting, Flores has spent time fundraising and as the co-captain of the “From the Hart” team in memory of her grandmother. Flores was awarded the February Pink Ribbon Honor. Grobman granted her the opportunity to represent Philadelphia in the 2012 Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure Kids Dash.
Loesche students learn to recycle
Judith Rubin at Loesche Elementary helped students complete their first recycle project for the year. Rubin taught her second-grade class about recycling and found that recycled drink pouches make great folders. Students now have the opportunity to earn a drink pouch folder handmade by their teacher. Students also made posters for the lunchroom about how to save the earth. Check out the kids at Loesche and visit www.terracycle.net to learn more ways to save the Earth.
Bridesburg Elementary fights childhood cancer
The Bridesburg National Elementary Honor Society has taken on the challenge to help fight childhood cancer. Students in fourth- and fifth-grades sponsored, organized and ran an Alex's Lemonade Stand and Lemon Face Contest at the school for three days on Feb. 15-17 during lunchtimes and collected $800. They also plan on holding more stands and additional fundraising events throughout the year.
Philadelphia Eagles Youth program selects Comegys Elementary for project
Comegys Elementary School has been selected by the Eagles Youth Partnership to build a playground, paint murals inside and outside the school, install mosaic tile masterpieces and install a 50x75 foot artificial turf field this June.