The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, a private foundation also known as The Chester Fund (TCF), recently announced its plan to apply to open a charter school in the Chester Upland School District.
The proposed charter school would ultimately serve students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, building on the successes of Chester Upland School of the Arts (CUSA). The school will be called Chester Charter School of the Arts.
The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts is a nonprofit organization founded by Swarthmore College music professor John Alston, who is dedicated to providing Chester’s disadvantaged children with a first-rate, arts-enriched education that will prepare them for college and success in life. Alston is also the Founder and Director of the acclaimed 120-voice Chester Children’s Chorus.
In 2008, TCF formed a partnership with the Chester school district to create CUSA, with TCF providing private funds for arts and technology programming as well as teaching assistants in every grade and an extended-day program for the older children. This year CUSA will serve 275 Chester children in Kindergarten through 5th grade.
“Last year CUSA had such a terrific year; the school has made so much progress both through social and academic performances,” Alston said. “The school’s fourth-graders made a twenty percent gain in reading proficiency and fifteen percent gain in math. They improved their results as third graders last year. Then in the middle of the summer, all of our staff was furloughed.”
CUSA was the latest school in the Chester Upland School District ravaged by massive reductions in the school district budget as a result of the state government’s cuts in education funding.
In the wake of these events, CUSA’s educational programs have been compromised and all but two of the classroom teachers have been laid off due to teacher-union seniority rules.
The inability to protect staff and programming was the key reason TCF decided to terminate the partnership, effective the end of the current school year (June 2012), and apply to open a charter school.
“The principal team has told us proudly that the new teachers in the building are wonderful teachers,” Alston said. “I’m glad we have extraordinary teachers in the building and after teaching with each other for one year or five years together they will be even more extraordinary. The issue is we don’t know where these teachers will be after next year; we don’t know if they will be in our building or somewhere else in the Chester Upland School District.
“The advantage of being a charter school is that you have more control over your budget and you always know a year in advance what our budget will be,” he said. “We deeply appreciate the partnership we’ve had with the district over the last three years, but also realize that to continue educating Chester children, we have to be able to design our own programs and hire and keep the best teachers. The only way to accomplish this is to apply for a charter school.”
The process has begun for the new charter school. There are currently six different locations that that are being tossed around for the school, but a definite location has yet to be determine.
The charter school will open in September 2012 pending approval of the charter application. All students in the district will be eligible to attend.
“The children’s education must come first,” said Maurice Eldridge, board chair of TCF. “We are saddened by what has happened, but we are excited about our future charter school.”
As the unemployment rate nears eight percent in Pennsylvania and nine percent across the country, many people are wondering what they need to do in order to obtain a good job in today’s job market.
Rather than viewing this issue as cause for despair, Tyrena Richardson looked at the unemployment rates as a cause for action.
Richardson, a member of the Prayer Chapel Church of God in Christ in Upper Darby, was unemployed for nine months after working in human resources since 1996. Determined not to let her situation defeat her, she decided she was going to help other people who were going through the same situation.
Richardson will be teaming up with her church for a job fair on Friday, Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The job fair will be held on the church’s grounds. The event is sponsored by Seeking with a Purpose (S.W.A.P.) ministry. The ministry’s mission is to help people who are looking to be gainfully employed. Richardson is the ministry leader.
“Rather than going through why I am going through this, I decided that I wanted to help other people that was going through the same thing as me,” Richardson said. “I went to my pastor, Reverend Nathaniel Goodson Jr., and asked him if I could help people find jobs by giving them advice. I started helping people with their résumés and [began] conducting mock interviews with people who were uncomfortable in job interviews.
“I do a face-to-face assessment with people when I go over their résumé,” she said. “I ask them, does their résumé capture what they want their employer to see. A lot of the résumés that I do need to be a little bit more detail oriented. In your résumé you have to [shape] it to what your accomplishments and skills are, so I think the most crucial part for job seekers is having that confidence and putting it down on paper. I want people to understand how important it is to sell yourself in order to obtain a job.”
Some of the businesses participating in the job fair are Allied Barton Security Systems, Colonial Penn Insurance Company, Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), Embassy Suites Hotels, Horizon House Inc., Juno Search Partners, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Penn Financial LLC, Target, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy.
“I wanted to bring employers into the neighborhood, so that people who have varying skills set could meet different employers,” Richardson said. “The desire for the job fair is that it truly be diverse in nature and really transcend all lines of business and all industries.
“The job fair became a desire to give back to the community, because the church is a large part of the foundation of the community,” she said. “I want people to feel encourage, empowered and uplifted when they come to this job fair. They need to know that they are not alone and we care.”
In addition to the job fair, there will also be a free seminar for attendees. The seminar speaker will be career and leadership development consultant, coach and trainer of Career Consciousness Inc., Helen A. Richardson. Radio personality Marcus C. Smith, also known as Brother Marcus from Praise 103.9, will also be at the seminar.
“I just want to lift people up and inspire them,” Richardson added. “We all have the ability to touch a life. Everything happens for a reason, but it is up to us to help each other in time of need.”
Walter D. Palmer Leadership Preparatory Academy received regional recognition this summer when chess victor Vanita Young was awarded a $40,000 scholarship to Texas Technical University.
Young’s teammates regard her journey as a symbol that chess is a growing extracurricular mental sport that can offer significant reward. To coach Douglas Cox of West Philadelphia, Young’s accomplishment is more than a chess victory.
Hired to provide academic support to students, Cox organized Palmer’s Dark Knights chess club in 2009. It was an easy decision for Cox simply because one chess-savvy student voiced a desire to play chess with his peers.
“Chess has never been about my ego because I realized in the early stages of forming the club that I was not the most gifted player,” Cox said.
Surrounded by highly skilled students, Cox partnered with David Miller, who provides tactical and strategic instruction to the team. This winning combination has allowed the Dark Knights to excel in chess and academics.
Engaging Miller has allowed Cox to wear many hats including motivator, project manager, fundraiser and academic advisor to the team.
During a recent summer practice, several of the students discussed SAT preparatory courses, college essays and various academic support aides for smartphones. It was clear that the team places a high priority on scholastic aptitude as well.
Although Young has been awarded a college scholarship based on her chess aptitude, she aims to score 1200 or higher on her SAT examination.
“I grew up playing chess for fun,” Cox said. “Now I enjoy the time I am able to play and improve my game. As a coach I am able to expose the students to different cultures, people and experiences.”
When asked if it was important to win, coaches and students alike felt that true learning occurs not in the victories, but in the defeat. “Winning is not everything. Because when I lose, I also learn,” said Mingo Johnson, who practices with the Dark Knights but plays on a competing team.
Like Cox, several of the members grew up watching their father and uncles play chess.
“I have been playing since I was in the 5th grade,” Johnson said. “My dad taught me how to play and I continue to learn by practicing, competing and studying strategy.”
Cox provides a diverse learning environment where students are able to play and learn with peers from Palmer and other area schools. In addition, the students are able to practice against other chess enthusiasts as young as five.
Palmer’s Dark Knights has put together one of the best academic chess teams not only in Philadelphia, but around the country. Almost three years later, Cox’s team boast local and national recognition as his team recently competed in a national competition, placing 21st in the country. “We promote young people to follow their dreams in chess and life,” said Cox. “We strive for excellence on and off the board.”
For more information on the Dark Knights chess club, visit www.darkknightschess.weebly.com.
With chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases taking a disproportionate toll on African Americans, those living in West and Southwest Philadelphia without health insurance or unable to acquire medical care, are encouraged to attend a local health center rather than avoid medical examinations altogether.
The Woodland Ave. Health Annex is a state of the art medical facility located in the shopping plaza at the 6100 block of Woodland Ave. in Southwest Philadelphia.
While health related medical problems typically affect African Americans in higher proportions than other members of the American population, Black males are said to be least likely to seek preventive medical attention.
Michael Rhoades of the Health Annex would like to attract Black men who otherwise are likely to only seek medical assistance after being afflicted with a medical problem which, in some cases, might have been prevented had they received more frequent medical exams.
“I recruit men into primary care or try to encourage them to, at the very least get a physical,” said Rhoades who speaks extensively at community meetings and other forums to raise awareness about Black health issues.
“We [the Health Annex] a variety of services ranging from primary care, behavioral health, dental, there’s a pharmacy on site in which you don’t pay more than four dollars co-pay for any medication.”
Social workers, eye doctors, foot specialists and other medical experts serving diverse needs, are also offered at the clinic for those who cannot afford treatment otherwise.
“It’s a one-stop shop here at the Health Annex and I’ll say this — insurance is not an issue,” Rhoades said. “If you are insured, that’s a wonderful thing; if you’re not insured you’re still in the same place as if you are insured.”
Rhoades noted the center not only provides physiological, social and psychological support and assistance, but that they are available to the community to “utilize in any form or fashion” related to health or anything else going on in their lives.
A sliding scale fee is used to assess billing for those who utilize the facility and receive some form of income but cannot afford to pay for individual insurance. Pay stubs are used to assess fees for those who are employed and in this way patients are billed according to what they earn.
“It’s a no-turn-away policy here at the Annex,” Rhoades said.
While the center has existed for some 10 years, it has only been at the 6100 Woodland Ave. location for two of those years.
Originally it operated at 58th and Kingsessing at a smaller facility. Rhoades explained that through the acquisition of grants, the health center was able to expand until finally it was able to occupy the larger site where it currently provides service to the community.
“A very special person really helped this place and is really the backbone and the reason for it being in the position that is now, and that person is Lorraine Thomas,” Rhoades said. “Without her it wouldn’t be here.”
Thomas, who is no longer an employee of the center, was unavailable for comment at press time.
“We have a wonderful environment here,” Rhoades said. “And most [of the staff] are very caring and have a genuine concern for people.”
If interested in more information about the Health Annex or to make an appointment, call (215) 727-4721.
Hundreds filled the streets of South Philadelphia to attend the annual community appreciation day event hosted by state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, whose district covers the south and southwest Philadelphia area.
“This is one of my favorite events throughout my legislative year,” Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity for family, friends, children and the community to come together for a day filled with food, fun and entertainment.”
While adults had an opportunity to meet and greet local legislators, community activists as well as fellowship with one another in a safe environment, children were able to play on the moon bounce and enjoy the other recreational activities provided for their entertainment as well.
“It’s always great when you can have the community come out in a day filled with fun, entertainment, free food and, most importantly unity,” Johnson said. “For me, that’s what it is all about: unifying the community and making sure our children and the community are having a good time.”
Johnson believes providing such opportunities to of live and to allow residents to enjoy themselves and get to know one another, could help to relieve some of these burdens and hardships.
“We know we are having tough economic times right now but I have made it a priority to focus on public-private partnerships to make sure that we have resources so our children, our families and our seniors can have a good time in our communities,” Johnson said.
Asked about his demanding schedule and his reputation for staying involved and active in both South and Southwest Philadelphia while being required to spend three days a week in Harrisburg, Johnson chalks it up to his love for what he does.
“This is a 24/7 job but I love my job and so for me getting up and serving the people everyday is easy because I love what I do,” he said. “When you love what you do you get a sense of joy and power based on your work and I enjoy it.”
Asked about his future plans, Johnson, who won the highly contested Democratic primary for City Council’s 1st District seat, noted his title might change once seated on the council but his mission will remain the same.
“For me, whether I am serving them in Harrisburg or in the city, at the end of the day, for me, it’s about serving the people and I enjoy doing it,” he said.
Several speakers were present at the event discussing community issues.
Jordan Harris, of the city’s Youth Commission, state rep. Ronald G. Waters and Bill Rubin, candidate for 10th district city council, took opportunities to address the crowd.
“It is communities like this that is going to bring back the neighborhoods that we once had,” Harris said. “What we have witnessed this summer is the deterioration of neighborhoods and it takes people like those gathered here today to not only enjoy themselves but to spend time with their communities that will bring back us back.”
The Germantown High School 1976 Reunion Committee is making progress in bringing together its Bicentennial Class over Thanksgiving weekend.
They are also making a call for alumni of Germantown High School to attend the Black Friday evening’s party as a kick-off for the 35th anniversary event.
Festivities are to be held at the City Line Avenue Crowne Plaza on Friday, Nov. 25 at 9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m.
One of the highlights of this year’s event is the honoring of the Germantown 76 Outstanding Services Award. The class has already notified this year’s recipients. They include entrepreneurs, corporate executives, professionals and philanthropists who graduated from the high school located on Germantown Avenue and High Street in 1976.
“This event will recognize the exemplary services that Germantown High School alumnus has displayed over the years,” said Marcia Willis of Mount Airy, one of the members of the reunion committee. “Proceeds from the All-Alumni Party and the reunion will go towards a scholarship that will be awarded to a student graduating from Germantown High School this school year.”
“We’ve been having a series of successful fundraisers leading up to the reunion weekend,” said Darlene Roberson of West Oak Lane, another committee member. “We are still coordinating a flapjack fundraiser for early October. We had a Spirit of Philadelphia event in August. These were all designed for us to get together and keep the cost down for the actual reunion weekend so that more monies can go directly to the scholarships.”
Germantown’s Class of 1976 is proud of the fact that they are one of the most active alumni groups from the Northwest Philadelphia high school.
Yet committee members will admit it is not all due to the tenacity and hard working spirit of the reunion organizers. “Being the Bicentennial class gave our class an added edge in having the class spirit,” said Marlene Bailey, another committee member in a previous interview.
In addition, the class also has a special bond with their counterparts who attended the Martin Luther King High School, Stenton Avenue and Haines Street in nearby West Oak Lane. King, a newer edifice than Germantown, was completed in the mid-1970s and many members of its first graduating class started their secondary school education at Germantown. Hence, some King alumnus attend Germantown reunions.
Reunion tickets are on sale now for $75. Those who only want to attend the All-Alumni Party can purchase those tickets separately for $20. Those who plan to attend both events will receive a discounted price, according to Willis.
For more information about the Germantown High School All-Alumni Party or the Germantown Class of 1976 reunion one can contact the committee. Willis can be reached at (267) 974-8444 or one can call Stephen Kinsey at (267) 258-3673, Roberson at (267) 257-5711, or Marlene Bailey at (215) 680-8932.
A few Mount Airy parents were taught city curfew laws recently.
When the Finley Advisory Council held its “Back to School Safety Initiative and Non-Violence Rally” at the Finley Playground, 1000 E. Hortter St. on Saturday the keynote speaker was the Philadelphia Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner Claudette Council. She outlined exactly what Northwest Philadelphia parents needed to know.
Council noted that many parents are unclear about the city’s curfew ordinance. She said that adolescents ages 13 to 17 must be indoors from Sunday to Thursday night between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.
They must be in between midnight and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night. Those under the age of 13 must be in by 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Sunday to Thursday night and on weekends by 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are earlier curfews for Center City and the University City area.
“The other night I heard that there was a 15 year old shot between 2 and 3 a.m.,” Council said. “The first thing that I thought was why was that 15 year old out without his parent. Really when you think about it all young people should be home studying and doing their homework on school nights. So these curfews are really protecting your child.”
Also on hand for the “Back to School Rally” was Ninth District Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco of Mount Airy. Tasco commended the Finley council for their commitment to Northwest Philadelphia youth. She said that after moving to Mount Airy in 1969 she became involved with the council in 1972. At that time its current president Walter Marlin and other officers like Gerry Sizemore and Margaret Turner were active on the board.
“We all need to continue to work together to spread the information that Deputy Commissioner Council shared today,” Tasco said. “I am glad that the Philadelphia Police Department is vigilant about cracking down on young people. These are difficult times and we need to do our part to share information and provide programs that keep our young people on the right path.”
The day’s event also featured Tyra Wright-Johnson, founder and director of the Women’s Solo Project; Leroy McKinney, a representative from the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network; and Leland Kent, executive director of victim’s rights for the District Attorney’s office.
Students from the Philadelphia Multicultural Music Center for Non-Violence performed under the direction of founder Stan Davis.
In addition, Charles Donaldson of West Oak Lane, a representative from the Safe Corridors program spoke. The program concluded with remarks from Michael Rice, the community engagement specialist for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. Information was also distributed from the Bullying Prevention Program.
“We were a little disappointed with our initial turnout,” Sizemore said. “But around 11 a.m. more parents and children started coming in little by little until we had a standing room only crowd. A standing ovation was extended to Stan Davis as he did a rendition of Ray Charles’ America the Beautiful in remembrance of Sept. 11. Michael Rice stressed the importance of a good education.”
Students at Stetser Elementary in Chester spent their summer recess supporting first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative by planting and maintaining two schoolyard vegetable gardens.
Students grew two 4’ x 8’ raised garden beds featuring a variety of fresh vegetables including radishes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, string beans, zucchini and yellow squash. All of the vegetables will be incorporated into the school’s lunch program.
“Our goal was to keep students actively engaged in learning during the summer while increasing their interest in eating vegetables,” said Janet Baldwin, principal of Stetser Elementary. “Teaching them firsthand how to construct a raised vegetable garden bed and how to grow a variety of fresh vegetables proved to be a fun and exciting way to accomplish what we set out to do.
“Because we planted so late it actually worked in our favor, because the garden is still going strong right now. As kids came to work on the garden, they harvested what was there and we would send it home with them. Now that school is back in session, we picked a ton of vegetables and I gave them to our cafeteria manager, and she is working on preparing those vegetables so that we can incorporate them in our school lunches.”
Master gardeners, local environmental groups and parents provided assistance to students at scheduled summer gardening check-ins.
A student gardening club coordinated garden activities and developed the final plot plan. Students at all grade levels were involved in the project. The students will also learn in their classes about the many different ways fresh vegetables can be prepared.
A service-learning grant from Earth Force Southwestern Pennsylvania and in-kind donations from the Folsom, Pa., Home Depot covered expenses related to the gardens, including tools, supplies, plants and truck rentals.
“The kids are so excited about the garden. In today’s lifestyle a lot of children don’t get gardening experience,” Baldwin said. “I believe that the kids who were involved in the planting, harvesting and watering are now more likely to try something that they might not have otherwise. I always say to kids you can decide whether you like something or not, but you can’t decide that unless you try it.”
Students took ownership of the gardens and shared responsibility for all aspects of planting and maintenance, including constructing raised beds, mixing soil, weeding, watering and caring for the plants. The students took turns researching plant characteristics, selecting appropriate cultivars, designing a plot plan, planting seeds and seedlings, and harvesting the produce.
“We had the kids measure and put eye screws in and put string across, so that we ended up with a grid in each bed,” she said. “I surveyed kids to see what vegetables we should plant. We made a plot plan for the vegetables that we were going to plant. One of the nice things about a raised vegetable garden is since we were creating new soil we had very little weeding to do.”
Baldwin noted while this was the first year Stetser Elementary had the garden, everyone at the school is already thinking about expanding the garden in the future.
“This was our first gardening experience this summer as well as our first attempt to do it,” Baldwin added. “We do want to expand in the future. We have a big hill, which would be good for planting some vines for watermelons or cantaloupes.
“Even though watermelons take longer to grow and take up a lot of room, the kids really like watermelons. Planting pumpkins is also another option for the garden as well. I strongly believe that the more exposure the kids get from doing different projects like this, the better off they will be.”
Local organization Together as Adoptive Parents (TAP) is scheduled to hold its 2011 AdoptWalk to raise money for the non-profit organization.
This year’s benefit is scheduled to be held at Lorimer Park, 183 Moredon Road in Huntingdon Valley on Saturday, Sept. 24. Registration time will be 9 a.m. and the 5K start time is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.
Meet Phyllis Stevens, the TAP organizer. According to her, this year’s walk will help more foster children find permanent homes. The TAP brochure features 14-year old Shawn who is among the youngsters looking for a forever family.
“The funds raised will be used for the recruitment of adoptive and foster families,” Stevens said. “It will also be sued to promote permanency for children and youth by providing support, resources and services. Please ask family, friends, classmates and co-workers to support by contributing to the AdoptWalk.”
Participants in this year’s walk-a-thon will have the opportunity to meet the Chick-Fil-A Cow and spin the Chick-fil-A wheel for prizes.
All attendees will receive a free picnic lunch and T-shirts as well as coupons for Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a free frosty from Wendy’s. There will also be prizes given to the person that brings the most people to the walk, including children. Furthermore, there will be door prizes.
One need not be present or a participant at the walk to donate to the cause. Contribution forms and money will be accepted during next Saturday’s walk. One can also donate before or after the AdoptWalk by mailing their contribution to TAP.
“If you are unable to attend AdoptWalk but wish to support TAP’s work on behalf of children and families please send your donation directly to TAP,” Stevens said.
TAP is a non-profit, multiracial adoptive, foster and kinship organization. Most of TAP’s members have adopted children with special needs from the foster care system. TAP believes that the adoption, foster and kinship road should never be walked along and that no family or child should have to figure out where to find help.
The AdoptWalk registration fee is $5 per person or $10 per family. For more information about TAP visit www.taplink.org. One can also access their helpline or pre-register for the AdoptWalk at (215) 256-0669 or (443) 616-9067.
Fannie Moore Murray will be sharing how residents in Philadelphia can learn more about their family history with a special program this weekend.
She will be the guest speaker at the genealogical library at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) church located at 2072 Red Lion Rd. on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 11 a.m.
Murray is the founder of the local chapter of the African-American Genealogical Society.
For those who live in Northwest or Northeast Philadelphia and other parts of the city, Murray will share how they can learn more about their roots by attending the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s 2011 conference.
This will be held at the Double Tree Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas from Sept. 22 to 25.
“I am one of the founders of the national organization in addition to being the founder of the local chapter,” Murray said. “We started in 2001. Now we have 30 chapters who are all dedicated to people doing research about their family history. When you know who you are you feel more a part of our community, and you will want to contribute more to your community.
“Just finding and touching original documents make you connected to the past,” she added. “It gives you a stronger sense of personhood. For African Americans, seeing how your family moved through generations from slavery, through Jim Crow and down through the Civil Rights Movement gives you a stronger sense of courage. You learn how our families survived and that we are where we are because of their prayers for us.”
One of the highlights of this year’s conference is a Black History tour through Little Rock.
Murray notes within some of the older historical library branches in Arkansas there is a wealth of information, including original slave documents that are connected to many citizens who now live in the Delaware Valley region.
Yet even if one cannot make the Sept. 17 local event or the national conference, Murray said that she will be making her annual trek through many neighborhood libraries this fall. She finds connecting with library patrons, students and others often serves as an impetus to do family research.
“Some people are surprised as to whom they are related to and then when they gain access to those (relatives) there are many benefits,” Murray said.
For more information about the genealogical conference, visit www.aahgs.org/conference.htm.