As we approach the end of a unique school year that challenged so many Philadelphians, it is important to acknowledge those that stepped up to help any way that they could. On June 1, the 5th Annual Community School Awards were held virtually to honor students, community members, and partner organizations who went above and beyond to support their neighborhood.

Since 2017, the Community School Awards have celebrated the hard work of Philadelphia residents across the city, as they work in their own neighborhoods to create change for themselves and those around them.

“This is a celebration of students, school teams, and community partners who help make great things happen at Philadelphia’s Community Schools,” said Mayor Kenney, opening the event, “Tonight we honor the collective work of the people whose dedication to community inspires and uplifts us all. I am so proud to be a part of this night honoring just some of the many great collaborators to these works.”

We are so proud of the students, community members, and partners of this year’s group of award recipients. Take a look below to learn more about this year’s honorees.

Alain Locke School

Laura Elliot
Special Education Compliance Monitor & Testing Coordinator
6-8TH Grade Autistic Support Teacher

For 10 years, Laura has been not only a staff member, but also a key person at Alain Locke. In a moment’s notice, Laura will jump in and support the immediate needs of her students. By packing and distributing school supplies from the Community Closet, Laura ensures that students and families have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom. Her commitment to removing barriers to learning makes her both an advocate of and partner to Community Schools and their mission of supporting the success of each student.

The Promise Neighborhood
Community Partner

The Promise Neighborhood seeks to improve education, health, and economic successes for children living or going to school in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at Promise Neighborhood showed again and again how committed they were to Alain Locke. The Promise Neighborhood was attentive and dependable during a year full of instability and unpredictability. Their monthly attendance at Partner Coalition Meetings and abundant sharing of local resources made them an essential partner this year.

Alexander K. McClure School

Rosa Figueroa
Community Member

A parent, supporter, and leader, Rosa displays how community members are essential to the growth and success of Community Schools. Her commitment to Alexander K. McClure radiates as brightly as her colorful posters and colorful energy! At the School Advisory Council Meetings, Rosa represents the voices of parents and community members, always keeping the students at the heart of the discussion. She is a liaison between the school and the community and dedicates her time, energy, and efforts to bettering both.

Sabina Velilla
Health Education Specialist at Albert Einstein Medical Center
Community Partner

Sabina is a long-time partner to Alexander K. McClure. She has stood by the community, school, and students through all their successes and challenges. Through public health education, Sabina has spread both knowledge and enthusiasm amongst the community about the importance of setting and achieving wellness goals. Her contributions are always abundant, sincere, and timely. She is a role model and inspiration to all!

Edward Gideon Elementary School

Zahir Mcgriff
8TH Grade Student

Although new to Edward Gideon Elementary, Zahir already demonstrates the best of the Tiger spirit! “He is alert, attentive, and inquisitive,” said Greg Wright, Community School Coordinator for Gideon Elementary. When it involves his schoolwork, Zahir is proactive, reaching out to teachers ahead of time for assignments. Amongst his peers, he is compassionate and friendly, always lending a helping hand. With the staff, he is respectful. A leader at Edward Gideon Elementary, Zahir is bound to make a difference at Hill-Freedman World Academy, and then, his community and beyond!

Gwen McIlhargy
Behavioral Specialist

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone, especially students. Young learners had to adapt quickly to new platforms of learning. As many schools transitioned to virtual classrooms, students felt alone and isolated behind their screens. However, at Edward Gideon, Mrs. Gwen sought ways to remind her students that they were not alone. She created spaces for both students and staff to have open conversations about their feelings and thoughts. An advocate of mental health, Mrs. Gwen serves to meet the needs of her students with a positive attitude and reliable presence.

F.S. Edmonds Elementary School

Lynette Medley
CEO & Founder of No More Secret Mind Body Spirit
Community Partner

Lynette has been a Community Partner of F.S. Edmonds for three years. As CEO and founder of No More Secrets Mind Body Spirit, Lynette has provided feminine hygiene products for the school through her “Respect the Dot/End Period Poverty” platform. Both Lynette and her daughter, Nya, have tirelessly devoted their time to raising awareness on Period Poverty and how to end it. They deliver supplies to over 75 homes on a weekly basis and have opened the first Spot Hub, which counsels and mentors young women while providing them with feminie hygiene products. Lynette is present at all community events and her dedication is greatly appreciated by the F.S. Edmonds family.

Ellen Freeman
Climate Specialist Team Member

Ellen, or better known as “Freeman,” goes beyond the call of duty. Throughout the pandemic, Freeman has worked very hard with hybrid and virtual learning platforms. Diligently visiting classrooms, monitoring attendance, and interacting with students, Freeman has been an accountable source of encouragement to our students and staff. She involves parents in the academic success of their children by contacting them to address possible barriers to their learning and methods to address them. Freeman’s energy, compassion, dedication, and love for her students are remarkable!

George Washington High School

Amber Reed and CORA
Community Partner
Amber is a Philadelphia native who attended Parkway Center City High School when it was still located at 12th and Market. Since 2009, she has been working with children and youth in Philadelphia, and George Washington High School has been fortunate enough to have her in the community for five of those 12 years. Within these past five years, Amber has been a source of good memories and great lessons. Her love for her students is most evident in the way she mentors and encourages her students to take initiative during afterschool programs and graduate as young leaders.

Armstead King Jr.
School Support Staff

Armstead has always loved working with older youth and has done so for over 30 years. He was a truancy officer under Mayor Street for over ten years and worked as a classroom assistant for special education for 8 years. He loves helping families overcome various barriers to get back to self-sufficiency in order to help students take ownership of their education. Growing up, his mother would say, “If you’re a trash man, be the best trash man there is! If you’re the President of the United States, be the best president you can be!” Armstead strives to instill the same mindset in his students in order to help them become the best that they can be.

Hamilton Disston School

Sakai Weathersby
5TH Grade Student

Sakai serves as the 5th Grade Senator at Hamiliton Disston. As Senator, Sakai brings a variety of ideas to implement at the school, such as STUCO’s March Madness/Pi Day Spirit Week where he showed off his skills in an apple pie cooking demonstration. Sakai has earned multiple awards for Citizenship and the Good Trouble Award this past March.

Officer Jameel Sloan
School Safety Officer

Jameel is the lead mentor and volunteer coordinator for LEAD mentoring at Hamilton Disston. LEAD mentoring groups teach young 7th grade men how to develop positive behaviors and leadership qualities. With his team of volunteer School Safety Officers, Officer Sloan meets with students once a week to develop relationships with them through ongoing and meaningful conversations. After the murder of George Floyd, Officer Sloan collaborated with other school leaders to facilitate open conversations between young male students and an important male figure in their life.

James Logan Elementary School

Richard Washington
Community Member

Richard, or more affectionately referred to as the “Mayor of Logan,” is more than just a community member. Through his non-profit organization, Bringing Everybody Together (B.E.T.), Richard serves as a liaison between the school and community. Supporting the work of the Community School Coordinator, Richard helps connect the school with other individuals and resources that build a strong community.

Pastor Alonzo Johnson
Pastor at Believers Bible Fellowship Church
Community Partner

Prior to the pandemic, BBF Church hosted “Dad & Me” events to encourage parents to enjoy an evening of food, fun, and games with their children. Although the event was not limited to fathers, fathers were highly encouraged to be present as BBF understood the importance of black male engagement in the lives of young black and brown children. When the pandemic began and in-person events could no longer be hosted, Pastor Johnson asked, “We are invested in the Logan community. What do we need to do?” As a result, BBF Church began hosting bi-weekly free food distributions.

John H. Webster School

Tuesday Chalmers
Adult & Teen Librarian at McPherson Library
Community Partner

In the Fairhill, Harrowgate, and Kensington regions of Philadelphia, residents go to McPherson Library for more than just books. “McPherson Library is the rock of these neighborhoods,” said Webster Coordinator Shira Smillie. It is a hub of resources, and Tuesday Chalmers is the one connecting community members to those very resources. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday got the job done! He hosted cover letter and resume workshops, mutual aid fairs, and even “Polar Express & Pajamas.” Tuesday has been a champion of connecting the right resources with the right people.

Jason Fequiere
Truancy Case Manager at Congreso de Latinos Unidos
Community Partner

In past years, students have had to pack a pencil and notebook for the first day of school. However, this year, students needed access to laptops in order to get plugged into their learning as schools transitioned onto online platforms. At Webster, accessibility was made possible thanks to Jason, who was committed to ensuring that every student had the technology to thrive in a virtual classroom. On countless occasions, Jason personally delivered Chromebooks to students at their homes. In Jason’s own words, he would rather be “out in the community and with the people.” And no one at Webster doubts this!

Kensington Health Sciences Academy

Giselle Orsini
11TH Grade Student

Giselle is a founding member of Kensington’s STAR and Student Council. This past year, she worked with school administrators to build a school-wide curriculum on mental health awareness, advocating for more services at the Student Roundtable with Councilmember Helen Gym and producing social media content for awareness. She also delivered two Anti-Racism Professional Development sessions. Giselle is a young leader who has, is, and will only continue to make an impact in her community!

Alyssa Kalter
Program Manager at Caring for Friends
Community Partner

It was Alyssa and her partnership that allowed Kensington to set up the Resource Distributions. Food access is a concern in many households, and the Resource Distributions allows students and families to access free and healthy foods all year round. Even as Alyssa supports the operation of current projects, she is always excited and willing to explore the next! Her energy and commitment to Kensington is essential to our growth!

Murrell Dobbins CTE High School

Sydney Gregory
12TH Grade Student

Whether Sydney is in the classroom or at Dobbins’ Dance Club, she is a team player! She is skilled in collaborating with others, whether they be her classmates or teachers, to make decisions that better her community. She sets the bar high for both herself and others, challenging and encouraging everyone to be a part of the growing process together!

Resurgence Church
Community Partner

Resurgence Church has offered its building as a second home to Dobbins. When Dobbins lacked a space to host, Resurgence Church provided a place to gather. Coordinating food and meal distributions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; capturing photos of graduating seniors and distributing commencement caps and gowns; and providing Out-of-School Time programming, Resurgence Church has always opened its door and welcomed Dobbins and its community.

Overbrook Educational Center

Jackie King

To quote Caroline Robinson, the Coordinator at OEC, “Jackie puts the ‘community’ in Community Schools.” Her devotion is unparalleled and her support is unwavering not only to Overbrook Educational Center, but also the community in West Philadelphia. During the week, she is leading the Cradles-to-Crayons initiative, delivering supplies from school to homes. On the weekends, she is volunteering at a local food distribution center, helping families access free and healthy food. Jackie lives in service to those around her.

Delaware Valley Fairness Project
Community Partner

Delaware Valley Fairness Project aims to make life a little more fair for people, especially children, most affected by poverty. For six years, the team at Delaware Valley Fairness Project has acted on its mission by providing resources and support to Overbrook Educational Center. Their creativity has been essential to solving the ever-changing needs of both the school and community. For example, this past year, twice as many families received food pantry services thanks to a customized bi-weekly home delivery system that was designed and implemented by Delaware Valley Fairness Project. They not only partner with Overbrook Educational Center, but also other community partners, making them all invaluable members to our larger Overbrook Educational Center team!

Richard R. Wright School

Beth Truncali
Special Education Department Staff

This past year, Beth’s creativity and innovation have been essential in engaging students and their families. As an active member of the Community Leadership Team, Beth develops timely and fun strategies that strengthen the relationship between the school and community. Beth has hosted virtual events, secured food donations for the holiday season, drafted grant proposals, and facilitated many distribution events. Said Caitlyn Nichols, Coordinator at Wright, “Beth’s love for the students shines through everything she does!”

Victoria Trower
Office of Family and Community Engagement Liaison
Community Partner

Victoria supports a number of schools in Philadelphia, but manages to make each one feel so unique and cared for. Whether she is on the phone with a parent or on her way to distribute a Chromebook for a student, Victoria makes herself available to the families she serves. She serves as an example during Partner Meetings, always eager to collaborate with other partners on ideas she has thoughtfully prepared. Her service and leadership paves the path for progress!

Samuel Gompers School

Jarryd Huddock
8TH Grade Teacher

Mr. Huddock’s passion for Samuel Gompers is evident both inside and outside of the classroom. He serves not only as an 8th grade teacher, but also as the 8th grade sponsor. He is committed to his students and their academic and personal growth, understanding that they are the future leaders of Philadelphia.

Adrianna Shaw-Bowden
8TH Grade Student

Serving as the student Council President, Adrianna has done more than her part to bravely guide Gompers through a challenging year of virtual school. Her exemplary leadership and dedication makes her a stand-out student. She is consistently going above and beyond to help her fellow classmates and the entire school community.

South Philadelphia High School

Nurse Shira Alberts
Nurse at Karabot’s Primary Care Center in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Nurse Shira leads South Philadelphia High School’s Health Resource Center. Her leadership is accompanied by an energy that is both contagious and inspirational. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to transition to online learning platforms, Nurse Shira quickly transitioned the Health Resource Center’s in-person programming to a confidential and virtual system that allowed students to call or text her about questions regarding their health. She volunteers to attend and support every Friday Giveaway. Her popularity with the students makes events such as “6 Feet and Treats” or “Mask, Spice, and Everything Nice” a success.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Community Partner

In April 2020, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provided 125 graduating seniors with a gift bag in celebration of their academic accomplishments. This past year, CHOP donated $1,400 in gift certificates. These gift certificates were used to award students who met their monthly attendance goals. CHOP also donated Amazon gift cards to support weekly Friday Giveaways. CHOP’s donations have made it possible to show students that hard work does pay off!

Southwark School

Nadine Woodberry
STEP Family Peer Specialist

“Above and beyond.” This is how the Southwark School community describes Nadine’s support. She connects families to the school in a way that makes them feel heard. Her care and compassion is seen in her everyday initiatives to meet the needs of the community. Her positive attitude is infectious in every sphere she works in, including the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team and the STEP team. She is an integral part of Southwark!

Christ Church South Philadelphia
Community Partner

Christ Church is a new, but already essential partner to Southwark School. In the span of a year, Christ Church and its team of volunteers delivered a total of 1,899 food boxes and donated gift cards to students and families in need. The church also provided for the community by opening its own doors as a City-funded food distribution site. Said Liz Hejlek, the Community School Coordinator for Southwark, “Christ Church has demonstrated a deep commitment to their neighbors throughout the past year.”

William Cramp Elementary School

Centro Nueva Creación
Community Partner

Centro Nueva Creacion has been an instrumental partner this year in providing an excellent, high-quality afterschool program – even through a pandemic! Through the highs and lows, Centro Nueva Creacion has continued to provide homework assistance, art programming, and much with only a staff of two!

Supportive Service Assistants
Supportive Service Assistants

Ms. Carmen Aviles and Ms. Norma have been on the frontlines this year. As William Cramp navigated its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, these Supportive Service Assistants supported, served, and assisted our students and families by distributing clothing, food, and school supplies.

Tilden Middle School

Community Partner

YOACAP has a over 30-year history of improving the quality of life and health for Philadelphian youth and their families through community-based and culturally competent interventions. At Tilden, YOACAP successfully manages a diversity of programs that reach a variety of students, serving 50-60 students through Out-of-School Time; 120 students through Summer WorkReady; 70 students through Summer Career Exploration; and 26 students through the pre-apprenticeship program. Through these programs, YOACAP has prepared students for their next steps.

Principal Timeka Ford-Smith
Principal at Tilden Middle School

Principal Ford-Smith believes in public education and works hard to ensure that her students receive a great one. After receiving a BSED in Secondary Education from West Chester University, she taught English at a high school for several years, focusing not only on language lessons, but also college and career readiness. Continuing her education as a lifelong learner, Principal Ford-Smith received a M.S. Ed. in Elementary Education from Cheyney University. She went on to receive a K-12 Principal Certification and a Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. She is experienced and knowledgeable in all aspects of school leadership, design, and development.

If you missed the award ceremony live, or just want to relive the fun, you can watch the 2021 Community School Awards, in full, on our Facebook page.