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July 11, 2014, 11:40 am

North-NW youth events focus on area growth

Nicetown and Germantown are two communities that cannot be written off. While these adjacent neighborhoods have had all the challenges facing any older urban neighborhood, it is clear that they are coming back. This was the focus of two youth-oriented events that happened recently.

First, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah joined the Firebirds Robotics team at the Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club, 328 W. Coulter St. in the heart of Germantown.

This took place on Friday, Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. There, neighborhood youths met the hoops-playing “Rebound Rumble” robot and learned how to build a “bristle bot” battery-powered toothbrush.

“This is a program that will eventually reach 4 million young people,” Fattah said. “This is a youth mentoring program for the Boys and Girls Clubs including their headquarters here in Philadelphia. This is an investment in our young people and is a major new thrust of getting them involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. So, it’s a great partnership.”

The Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club program is an outgrowth of the partnership between FIRST, the national robotic/science education mentoring program and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Fattah forged this national partnership by bringing together the top officials of FIRST and the Clubs to sign the American Innovation and Mentorship Agreement last April. This will provide programming at 3,000 Boys and Girls Clubs nationally by 2015.

The 10th annual Give Back Festival drew a cross-section of residents from the Northwest Philadelphia area to Nicetown Park, 4300 Germantown Ave. on Friday, Aug. 10 and Saturday, Aug. 11.The scattered thunderstorms and humid weather did not completely damper the spirits of those who came for the full roster of activities. It ranged from an HBCU fair and Walk for Peace to live entertainment and a boxing competition.

Those who came could see firsthand the development that is taking place in Nicetown. This includes many of the projects of the nonprofit Nicetown Community Development Corporation and its private and public partners.

Perhaps no one is more aware of the revitalization taking place in the Nicetown and Germantown areas than Zak Abdur-Rahman, the head of the Nicetown CDC.

“Sometimes developers come in who just want gentrification,” Abdur-Rahman said. “They think they know what is best for the community. They just want to control the land and create value in the marketplace. They are more interested in their return than they are in cleaning up the neighborhood, improving the schools and making it a better place for the people who are already there to live. That’s not what we do.”

Nakira Reed concurred. The single mother recently relocated in Nicetown.

She loves the transformation and the community events in her community.

“This is just a dream come true, and my son and I love it here,” she said.