The Civic Engagement Academy (CEA) is a training program that provides community members with the tools needed to create lasting positive change. The trainings are meant to support local problem-solving that is driven by community members themselves. The “CEA Takeaways” series features testimonials from attendees.

At just 13, Alicia Strange worked her first job by obtaining her Working Permit through the School District of Philadelphia’s Education Center. A summer program called WorkReady gives many young people across the city, ages 12-24, access to a meaningful paid work experience during the summer. The program provides the opportunity to build transferable skills required to secure and sustain employment in the future workforce. Excited about her first gig and the ability to make her own money, Alicia spent four days a week for six weeks of her summer cleaning, painting, and restoring the hallways and classrooms of a local school. When the first day of school was right around the corner, she felt most rewarded by the new friends she made and the influential adults that had impacted her. Through this invaluable experience, Alicia began her journey of community engagement and development.

Alicia currently works with the Dream Academy Learning Center at G.W. Child’s Elementary School as a Mentor Coordinator. While her day-to-day responsibilities include project management, her work is focused on connecting the organization with individuals and strategic partners that can help contribute to empowering the next generation of youth. She focuses primarily on connecting middle school students with caring, positive and nurturing adults—their new mentors. Alicia says that what inspires her is “…anything that can help me or my community cultivate to a higher level of learning and doing. Growth, development, and innovation.”

She decided to attend the CEA Learning Series training on Targeting and Recruitment because she was eager to learn new ideas that she could implement in her work. Alicia says that she wants to be “that annoying lady” that will not give up on people by implementing The Rule of Seven. She shared that the training opened her eyes to push her strengths and growing her resilience. Alicia took what she learned and implemented it at her “Barber Shop Talks: Heads Up for Our Youth” event. Her goal for this event was to target local barber shops in South Philadelphia and beyond, getting them involved in becoming community leaders and connecting them with young males. She knows it is important for young Black men to see others in their community with a positive presence. She believes that men who have a platform to discuss how they can make a change in their community can directly start a conversation to assist, engage and impact young Black men and boys. “This was my first year doing this. My outcome was small, but I’m going to launch it every summer until I have a village of barbershop owners who see this as a powerful tool and method to uplift our young Brown and Black men, as well as our communities.”

Moving forward, Alicia plans to continue to promote civic education and aid in neighborhood investments that impact inclusive education on socio-economic development. Over the next three years, she wants to continue to connect youth to adult mentors with the overall goal of combatting the school-to-prison-pipeline—breaking the cycle of inter-generational incarceration for young people. As a self described leader and optimist, Alicia is a confident believer in working to make a positive impact in our City.