Through the power of partnership, students from KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy and Westtown School are currently in the birthplace of Buddha and the home of the Himalayas, Nepal.
The two schools have partnered with the nonprofit, buildOn, to coordinate a combined service project. The non profit operates afterschool youth service programs that mobilize urban teens to lift up their communities and change the world through intensive local community service and by building schools in some of the poorest countries.
“This is going to be a life changing experience, getting to see the difference between where I live and other places in the world,” said KIPP DuBois student Juwan Rainer.
Rainer, a 16-year-old junior from West Philadelphia, is one of 10 students from KIPP DuBois accompanying 11 of their peers from Westtown on a two week service learning trip.
Last November Rainer and students from the two schools met for the first time as a result from a collaboration established by each school’s leadership.
KIPP DuBois’ school leader, Aaron Bass, was approached two years ago by KIPP Philadelphia’s board chair, Jay Cohen Gilbert, to consider working with Westtown.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect our students and let them understand that although they’re in different schools, they share a lot in common,” Bass said. “Rarely do you have two schools with such different socioeconomic backgrounds coming together.”
KIPP DuBois and Westtown School share a vision of students who grow up understanding global issues and feeling a responsibility to be leaders and make positive change.
Designed by the students, the trip features community service activities in two local schools in Pharping, a town south of Kathmandu.
They have taught English at one school and helped with a construction project at the other. The trip also included home stays with locals, visits to several sites in and around Kathmandu, trekking and rafting excursions.
Their longest stay will be in the hostel of a Buddhist monastery before heading back to Philadelphia this weekend.
KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.
“To see the difference in how we live makes me think about what I can do with my future and for my kids,” said KIPP DuBois junior class president Aaliyah Asenci.
In 2010, President Barack Obama proclaimed November National Entrepreneurship Month, a time when “we celebrate the remarkable and everyday successes of our entrepreneurs and innovators.”
Tiffany D. Davis, president of Hansbury Hayes International and chief executive officer of Refuel, Inc. embodies all that inspired Obama to issue such a proclamation.
Hansbury Hayes was created by Davis to fill the void of women-owned and- operated clinical medical suppliers throughout the world.
An international trading company that specializes in delivering quality medical devices to clients in the global market place, Hansbury Hayes negotiates partnership agreements with medical device developers to assist with getting their ideas manufactured.
Refuel provides eco-friendly fuel alternatives, advanced biofuel solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company also supplies biofuel products made in the United States to foreign markets.
“Our passion is to help people bring life to their ideas,” Davis said during a recent interview.
The Philadelphia native made her vision a reality after earning a bachelor of arts in speech communication from Morgan State University and a master of arts in management from the College of Notre Dame in Maryland.
While at Morgan State, Davis had a chance encounter with the founder of Black Enterprise, Earl Graves, Sr., who “gave me my first briefcase and told me that I would be successful.”
It was also at Morgan State that Davis met her future partner and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. sister, New Jersey native Nicole Johnson.
“I told Coley (Johnson) that once I had the opportunity to create a business, I would bring her on board,” she said.
After working as national director for the NAACP Reginald F. Lewis Youth Entrepreneurs Institute in Baltimore, Davis transitioned from the nonprofit sector into international business as a global account manager for WorldSpace Satellite Radio.
She later went onto work with the National Institutes of Health and earned an executive degree from the Harvard School of Government in Dubai.
“As a female in a male-dominated industry, my education and professional experiences have served as a solid foundation throughout my career,” she said. “In particular, my experience at Morgan State prepared me to deal with anything and everything.”
Davis and Johnson formed their alliance just over two years ago and have not looked back. Between the two companies, the entrepreneurs project conducting $75 million in business for the 2012 fiscal year.
“The hardest thing is being noticed as women; there are very few in this game,” Davis said. “We do business with companies in countries including France, Canada, the Philippines, Russia and Nigeria. Once we are at the table and present our business services and products, things change in our favor. Initially it was getting in the door to get to the table that was challenging.”
As working mothers, both have had to learn how to balance work and home life. Davis is mom to five-year-old daughter Toni, and three-year-old son Alexander; Nicole is mom to eight-year-old son Amir.
“You want to dedicate all of your time to your dream, but you have to dedicate it to your child at the same time,” Johnson said. “Working with Tiffany and being there to support one another has been a great help to both of us. When you have a dream that’s outside the box, it can be hard.”
With Hansbury Hayes and Refuel based in Delaware, the pair are active members of the Delaware World Trade Center, as well as the National Association of Professional Women.
“Don’t give up especially if you have a big idea, believe in you,” Davis said. “Trust your gut and follow God.”
It is only a matter of time before the music world will know of Yesseh Furaha-Ali. The 16-year-old Upper Darby resident is in line to become a part of the area’s storied musical history.
As a member of the Tim Janis American Christmas Carol Orchestra, Furaha-Ali performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City last month alongside Grammy award-winner Sarah McLachlan. Proficient in playing seven instruments, the Upper Darby High School junior played the clarinet and saxophone during the benefit concert, which supported The Golden Hat Foundation.
Furaha-Ali was excited about “the fact that Carnegie Hall is “one of the best, most famous and prestigious halls to play in.”
A musician for just about half his life, the talented student has appeared on bills with internationally renowned artists including Donald Byrd, Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove.
He was selected for membership into the National Society of High School Scholars earlier this year and participated in the globally recognized summer program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“All of these programs have impacted my progress in many ways,” Furaha-Ali said. “I play with different people from all over the world and from different parts of the (Philadelphia) area who, through music, are able to come together. It’s wonderful.”
Dedicated to his craft as student-athletes are to their respective sports, Furaha-Ali has honed his skills here with the Kimmel Center Youth Jazz Ensemble Creative Music Program, Settlement Music School and the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.
He is scheduled to perform live Jan. 19 at the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation gala.
“Being committed, playing music, staying humble, and having admiration, joy and love of music are some of the characteristics that have made me successful,” Furaha-Ali said.
The youngest child of Nashid Furaha-Ali, Yesseh attributes his achievements thus far to his “family, friends, music teachers and all who have believed in and supported me.”
With a few recordings under his belt anda strong sense of respect for music history, Yesseh was voted by Philadelphia magazine as one of “Eight Kids Who’ll Restore Your Faith in the Future.” The magazine called him “the next John Coltrane.”
Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie also has nothing but praise for the young Furaha-Ali.
“He is an amazing young musician, a great student and a great young man,” the mayor said. “I saw his father supporting him at every school and music-related meeting or event in the township.”
More than 2,000 people recently attended Media’s Jazz By Night festival.
For the past 10 years the Media Business Authority, which encourages economic growth to help increase Media business patronage, has hosted the event as part of its America’s Music Festival Series.
“We realize how important an event like this is to keeping jazz alive,” said Paul Patchel, credited with organizing the event.. “We’re bringing people out to our community and have had a consistent turn out over the years.”
Over twenty jazz artists, internationally renowned and aspiring, performed at local restaurants throughout Media. This year the festival honored highly regarded tenor saxophonists Robert “Bootsie” Barnes and Larry McKenna.
“Bootsie has been involved since the inception of the festival and is always a pleasure to work with,” Patchel said. “He seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage this year.”
In the 1950s Barnes played with various musicians in Philadelphia including Lee Morgan, Philly Joe Jones and Bill Cosby.
Today, Barnes continues to play at venues through the region and spends a great deal of his time working with the John Coltrane Cultural Society and the Clef Club.
McKenna started out taking guitar lessons around age eleven then played the clarinet in the school band because they did not have any more saxophones. Eventually his parents bought him a saxophone. During his career McKenna has played and recorded with Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra.
McKenna has also arranged music performed on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and in the Nicholas Cage movie “Birdy.”
“The city (Philadelphia) is blessed to have a gentleman of his capability,” said WRTI 90.1 radio host Bob Perkins. Perkins conducted an interview with McKenna for his radio show during the festival.
Patchel noted the festival “wanted to give something back and acknowledge the achievements of these two great jazz artists.”
As the anchor presenter of the festival, the Media Business Authority organized sponsorships by WRTI 90.1 radio station, Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, Bud Light and Bryn Mawr Trust. With support from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, Jazz By Night is becoming a highly anticipated event for jazz enthusiasts from all over.
“It reminds me of New Orleans or festivals in Europe,” said saxophonist Odean Pope. “Media does a great job to get the music out there and educate the people. It's great to see the young people out carrying on the music.”
Other artist featured during the one day festival included the Frank Bey Band, Marty Grosz, RK$TDY, Phyllis Chapell, Dani Mari and the Eric Mintel Jazz Duo. “We seek diversity in offering a lineup of jazz artists that appeals to everyone,” said Patchel.
Performer and founder of the Main Line Jazz & Food Festival, Laura Munich, enjoyed the festival immensely.
“What a great night,” she said.
The Microsoft Corp. announced earlier this year that one billion people worldwide now use an office suite of desktop applications called Microsoft Office.
Fifteen students from Darby's Park Lane Elementary School have been taught those applications, thanks to officials from Verizon. For six weeks, volunteers from Verizon, along with Park Lane staff members, provided students introductory lessons on Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel software.
“We began coordinating this program six months ago,” said Arnold Coleman, international director of community outreach programs for Verizon.
Coleman, born and raised in Darby and a former star student-athlete at Darby-Colwyn High School, has a strong association with Park Lane. His father once worked at the school as its head janitor and his wife, Karen, currently teaches second grade there.
“I travel all over the world managing educational programs like this, and for years my wife said that we should do a program in our own community,” Coleman said.
Six months ago he began to communicate with William Penn School District Superintendent, Joseph Bruni and Park Lane Principal Wayne Rodriguez about what Verizon could do to enrich students’ learning. Conducting the computer skills development program, which took place on Saturdays, was one of the ideas they discussed.
Coleman and one of Verizon’s vice presidents of IT, Anthony Dragoni, created the program 10 years ago at a school in Maryland. Now Verizon sponsors 30 similar programs on in locations including India, England and throughout South America.
Various business units contribute to funding the outreach efforts that have proven to be rewarding and worthwhile, he said.
“What I do here is the favorite part of my job, it gets me most excited,” Dragoni told the students and parents during the program’s recent closing ceremony.
Set to retire next month after 37 years of service, Drangoni was impressed with what he experienced at Park Lane.
“This is the best partnership we've had,” he said. “They’re very well organized and it’s always great to see parents engaged and involved.”
A native of Ridley, Dragoni said he was “floored by what you (the students) did today. Your presentations were well thought out.
Each student presented what was learned during the closing ceremony, using the technological and soft skills acquired. Using memory sticks donated by Verizon, the students shared what they learned during the program.
Fourth-grader Oluwafumbi Fowowe said he thought the program was “a good opportunity to learn something I never heard of. It will help me to get a scholarship and have a better future.”
Liam Flaherty, a sixth-grader from Darby, said he was “going to help my mom while she's going to college at Delco Community. She takes a public speaking class and I'm going to help her out.”
Each student received a framed certificate from Verizon, which also donated 30 new laptops to Park Lane’s computer lab.
Rodriquez expressed his gratitude to the Verizon executives on behalf of the students.
“We truly appreciate what Mr. Coleman, Mr. Dragoni and the volunteer instructors have done for our students,” he said. “It is quite obvious that the students learned a lot.”
Albert Mukuma, a former Verizon employee and one of the program’s instructors, echoed Rodriguez’s sentiments.
“This is a wonderful program and I’m glad to be involved,” he said.
Mukuma, a New Jersey resident, also thanked Dragoni for his influence on his personal career in addition to changing the lives of many young people.
Program manager and lead instructor Samuel Randolph drove from Delaware each Saturday to “do this because it’s a good thing.”
“The students looked forward to coming in on Saturday,” said project coordinator and fourth-grade teacher Michelle Carey. “It’s good for them to speak publicly and in front of their peers, using the skills they obtained over a few weeks.”