PHILADELPHIA – At a ceremony at City Hall Tuesday evening, Mayor Kenney and other officials honored 34 Philadelphians for their support of the partnerships, events, and initiatives taking place at the City’s 17 Community Schools.
This year’s Community School Awardees include seven students, six parents and volunteers, five school staff members, five community members, five staff members of provider agencies, and six partner agencies. Leading the awards presentation were Mayor Kenney, Deputy Mayor for Children and Families Vanessa Garrett Harley, and Community Schools Director of Operations Maxwell Akuamoah-Boateng.
“Each of you receiving an award has gone above and beyond — with your hard work, your ingenuity, your compassion, your willingness to take risks, your ability to inspire,” the Mayor told the awardees. “At a time when the entire world is struggling with war and disease and political strife, you have chosen to stay positive, to focus on community – your community – and to lift others up.”
“I am so thankful for the contributions of every member of each of our Community School communities,” said Deputy Mayor Garrett Harley, who noted that the Office of Children and Families provides extensive support to Community Schools, including Out-of-School Time programs, and case management support for families.
“The establishment of the Community Schools program is one of the foundations of the School District of Philadelphia of which I am most proud,” said outgoing Superintendent Dr. William Hite. “The individuals being honored represent the essence of community. Their work and dedication to helping not only our students but families and neighbors are an inspiration to us all.”
Waleska Maldonado, Chief of Prevention, Office of Children and Families, said, “Community Schools take a team. It’s a team where every player is critical–families, staff, partners, and students. Working together, they help to build networks of support for the entire community. I’m glad we could come together tonight to recognize so many who work tirelessly to lift up Community Schools.”
Tuesday’s event also included the premier of a documentary produced by the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement entitled “Spotlight Series: Joy. IMPACT. Support.” The series spotlights the powerful work of four Black, male Community School Coordinators and their positive influence on the culture of education in Black communities. The 22-minute film can be seen here.
“This year’s Spotlight Series, ‘Joy. IMPACT. Support’ was created to amplify the voices, the work and the impact of Community Schools on our young Black male ecosystems in Philadelphia,” said Octavius Blount, Coordinator, Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement. “We believe that positive representation has the power to show young Black males their own potential. Our intention is to broaden and deepen the dimensions in which Black men and boys are seen, heard, and loved.”
After the remarks, each of the City’s 17 Community School Coordinators presented awards to members of their school community. This year’s award recipients are:
Alain Locke School:
Ms. Farzana Akter – Farzana is an eighth grade student and the Student Council President at Alain Locke School. Farzana has also been a familiar face at partner meetings and helps to steer the Community Schools work at Alain Locke. She has successfully advocated for school programs based around law and justice, and successfully argued that students who work events should be compensated. Farzana plans to study criminal justice in college and hopes to work for the FBI as the the first Muslim-American and first woman director.
Walnut Hill Community Association – Alain Locke School sits in the heart of West Philadelphia, but unlike other schools in the area, does not have a direct community association that supports the surrounding neighborhood. The Walnut Hill Community Association (WHCA) offers that support in many ways. A neighborhood group run by residents dedicated to community revitalization, WHCA actively promotes the neighborhood, encourages participation in community events, and helps to determine neighborhood improvement priorities. The group continues to strive and work for the betterment of the community and its residents.
Alexander K. McClure Elementary School:
Mercedes Olesik – Mercedes is McClure’s Attendance Case Manager from Carson Valley. She has been instrumental in reconnecting families back to McClure Elementary. Since she began working with McClure in November 2021, Mercedes has made many strides towards ensuring that barriers for students are eliminated. She works closely with school counselors and has maintained constant communication with families to ensure continued attendance success. She has also helped increase the attendance rate to be a leader in McClure’s Learning Network and inspires students to love being at school.
Utility Emergency Service Fund – The Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) partners with McClure Elementary to support families every day, along with team members Syreeta Stanley, Kathy Hall and Ivette Garcia. UESF, in collaboration with other partners, hosts various workshops on budgeting and life skills to help McClure families flourish. UESF has also provided support to a number of families, helping them to stay in their homes, ensure utilities were not disconnected, and afford McClure children a stable living situation.
Edward Gideon Elementary School:
Sharilyn Clark: Ms. Clark is the jack of all trades! She serves as a teacher, administrator, school technology coordinator and support for staff members. Gideon would truly not be the same without her. Ms. Clark has worked for the School District of Philadelphia for 26 years and has worked at Gideon for the past five years. Her impact is felt both in and outside of the classroom. She processes all requests for Gideon to remain open after hours and assists in scheduling for all in school special programs.
Marcuis Richburg: Marcuis is an 8th grader at Gideon Elementary and has attended the school since 1st grade. He is a dedicated student who is very passionate about technology and serving the community. Marcuis has surpassed more than 50 hours of volunteer service at Gideon. He is Ms. Clark’s biggest helper, volunteering during his lunch period to help organize the technology lab and equipment. On Thursdays Marcuis is normally serving the community with a smile, distributing produce to parents and commenting members.
F.S. Edmonds Elementary School:
Courtney Sabb – Ms. Sabb a school counselor at F.S. Edmonds Elementary for the past four years. Ms. Sabb unselfishly supports the needs of the school, its students and families, and the community. She has diligently assisted with events and activities held at Edmonds, notably the annual “Keep Them Warm” Coat Drive and Distribution Day. Ms. Sabb is also instrumental in bringing an after-school cheerleading team to Edmonds. She has fostered meaningful relationships with the students, providing one-on-one interaction and taking time to discuss their future when time for high school selection.
The Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia – The Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia (BGCP) has been F.S. Edmonds’ Out-of-School Time provider for the past four years. They provide after school programming for elementary school dismissals, as well as summer camp for students. BGCP has worked to maintain an academic enrichment curriculum that keeps students engaged, offering students activities that are fun and exciting. They also provide a literacy program that helps students improve their skills. The BGCP also has a good relationship with the Edmonds family, and staff are pleasant and professional. They continue to make their work with the youth their priority.
George Washington High School:
Amber Stallings – Ms. Stallings is a 24-year old graduate of Penn State University who studied criminal justice with a minor in sociology. She has been working with the Greater Philadelphia YMCA for five years, and has overseen programming at George Washington High School since October 2021. Her passion for working with children and making a difference in her community motivates her every day to come to work and make an impact.
Yaasiyn Muhammad – Mr. Muhammad serves as an Assistant Principal at George Washington High School, focusing on the transition to high school for incoming 9th graders. As a Philadelphia native and product of Martin Luther King High School, with degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Muhammad proudly touts the city’s best qualities and believes in every students’ potential. He has served Philadelphia students in grades K-12 since 2009 as a summer instructor for various non-profits, and as a Co-founder of the Philadelphia Black History Collaborative. Yaasiyn has brought his belief in students’ potential and focus on educational equity to his work at George Washington and looks forward to continuing to make an impact.
Hamilton Disston School:
Dianne Channault – Ms. Channault is an active volunteer at Disston, helping to provide support during events and field trips, distributing supplies, and her personal favorite, assisting first grade students in the classroom. She retired in 2019 after many years of administrative service in the public sector. A decades-long resident of the Tacony neighborhood, Dianne felt a need to connect with her community after retirement. In September 2021, she found herself driving by Disston at dismissal time and the excitement from students and parents was a joy to see. She found her niche and has since enjoyed every minute of the opportunity to be a part of the Disston community.
CORA Services – CORA Services, established in 1971, offers services to help children, youth and families experiencing emotional, behavioral or situational difficulties. Staff provide an array of services, with concentrations in family strengthening, substance use and mental health, and overall risk reduction and wellness promotion. CORA serves for all of Disston’s Community Schools Core Partnerships, and its team members have gone beyond their scope of work to support Disston families. This is evidenced by their presence at school events and help at weekly produce distributions. Disston looks forward to continuing to strengthen this partnership to benefit the Tacony community.
James Logan Elementary School:
Dr. Zarah Adams – Dr. Adams has served as the Director of Community Engagement at Germantown Friends School since 2020. She began her role with the goal of widening the community for Germantown Friends students and staff, a goal that was achieved in establishing a partnership between the school and Logan Elementary. Neither the pandemic nor virtual learning has interfered with the partnership, but has rather created opportunities for virtual collaboration. Students from both schools have worked together to create a newsletter to share how they are dealing with the pandemic, and more recently, to create activities that will serve the community. Dr. Adams is a dynamic example of what a Community School Partner looks like—she is forward thinking, and not just about her students at GFS, but all students.
Jada Bradley-Soto – Jada is a fifth grade student at Logan Elementary. She was nominated for a Community School award due to her commitment to being a daily example of Logan’s school slogan, “A Winner of Excellence.” She serves in two Community School initiatives—on Logan’s school safety team and as one of the fifth grade Logan Ambassadors with the Germantown Friends programs. At Logan, Jada is often seen as someone who seeks out others who need help and teaches them the skills needed in a meaningful way. Outside of school, Jadah volunteers within her community and at her church.
Edgar Awewoa – Edgar is a fifth grade student at Logan Elementary. He has been nominated for a Community School Student award because he is an example of Logan’s school slogan, “A Winner of Excellence.” He serves in two Community School initiatives—as a captain on the school safety team and as one of the fifth grade Logan Ambassadors with the Germantown Friends program. He has a true love of learning and enjoys spreading his vast knowledge to the Logan school community. As a member of the safety team, he also looks out for fellow students and goes the extra mile to be sure all safety tasks are taken care of.
John H. Webster School:
Ms. Viviana Virola Romero – Ms. Viviana serves as the School Climate Support at Webster Elementary. A parent volunteer, she is a unique and integral member of the school staff. On any given day, Viviana can be found serving lunch to Kindergarteners, distributing donations from community partners, leading Webster’s School Advisory Council, ensuring safe dismissals, or stepping up to do whatever needs to be done. She is an expert at communicating with families about important information, procedures, and events. Her hard work and obvious dedication to the school inspires everyone she works with.
Laura Rauth, Clinical Instructor, Temple Department of Nursing – For the past five years, Laura has created and nurtured a bridge between the next generation of nurses and the communities they may someday serve. Laura and her team of Temple nursing students can often be found brightening the hallways of Webster, teaching health classes, pulling students out for screenings, and learning firsthand about providing for public health needs. Under Laura’s guidance, they have conducted school supply drives, organized closets, and even painted murals to liven up Webster’s bathrooms. Webster is a better, more vibrant, and healthier place because of their efforts.
Kensington Health Sciences Academy:
Crystal Le Lam – Ms. Le Lam has been nominated for the Community Member, Community Service Award for all her amazing support and dedications this year. She was the only parent to attend all School Advisory Council and school meetings held this year, and is a pure example of a community member who has helped to engage and drive the work of the Community School initiative within their community.
Dalila Bedoya – For the past year, Ms. Bedoya has worked towards engaging families at Kensington Health Sciences Academy. She has participated in all of the school’s parent meetings and workshops, and worked to increase parent participation and engagement throughout the year. Through her work she has shared insights and resources that will continue to support families within the school community.
Murrell Dobbins CTE High School:
Dominique Dilworth – Ms. Dilworth is a Behavioral Health Specialist for the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) in the City of Philadelphia. In her role she is responsible for providing the community with resources to empower healthier lifestyles. She has served in the behavioral health field for countless years and in many roles including crisis management. Ms. Dilworth has a passion to serve others, encouraging them to seek the fruits of life. Her mission is to not only change lifestyles, but to change the mindsets for a stronger community.
Diane Morgan: Ms. Morgan serves as a committed volunteer and lead for the weekly food distribution at Dobbins, Fresh For All Wednesdays.Ms. Morgan has always had a heart to serve. During her years of service with the Internal Revenue Service for fifteen years, Ms. Morgan worked in several departments for the government. As she continued her career working for the Philadelphia Recruiting Battalion working alongside enlisted military men and women. Years later she would transfer to the Department of Defense until her retirement.
Overbrook Educational Center (OEC):
Samia Bolling – Ms. Bolling is a go-to among OEC parents. Recently, she helped school leadership in organizing staff appreciation gifts for all the staff members at OEC. She has also been instrumental in securing funding for a $985,000 streets project to increase neighborhood safety and accessibility for students and community members. Ms. Bolling steps up for the school community any time and every time, and the school is deeply grateful for everything she does for the entire Overbrook neighborhood.
Legacy Youth Tennis and Education – Legacy has helped OEC to provide in-person Out of School Time programming, which has been a dream come true for families. Legacy, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, embodies what it means to be a Community School core partner. From bringing in additional partnerships like Philly Reading Coaches and Adventure Aquarium, to hosting engaging events for students and playing a vital role in the success of our weekly food distribution, Legacy is always there to get it done. Most notably, they secured transportation services to ensure that all OEC students have the opportunity to participate in after-school programming.
Richard R. Wright School:
Charles Brown – As the climate specialist, Mr. Brown interacts with all of Wright’s students and brings great energy to the school building. Whether it’s singing a birthday song to students and staff or the structured system he brings to recess, Mr. Brown does it all. Wright would not be the fun, tight-knit community that it is without Mr. Brown. The kids constantly look for his high fives and fist bumps and know that he is one of their biggest cheerleaders and advocates. He puts the “special” in climate specialist and will continue to bring his passion and heart of service to the school.
Saul Singleton – Mr. Singleton joined the Wright community as an attendance case manager in the summer of 2021. Since then, he has been integral in increasing student attendance as the school transitioned back to in-person learning. Saul hit the ground running by reaching out and connecting with families who could use additional support over the summer, and that drive did not slow down when the school year began. He has worked to provide students with new uniforms and shoes, raffled Temple football tickets to encourage school attendance, and brought new light to our PBIS work, “The Wright Way.” The attendance and community leadership teams at Wright know that they can count on Saul to help families prioritize school and work through any barriers that are in their way.
Samuel Gompers School:
Jinaki Z. Bright – Ms. Bright is a firm believer that “all children are capable of learning” and is extremely passionate about literacy. This has been her focus with more than 25 years of experience in education, as a teacher (elementary, middle and high schools), an administrator (elementary and middle schools), and as an Instructional Coach that provides professional development to schools locally, nationally and internationally. She is currently the education director for the Office of State Senator Vincent Hughes. This position allows Ms. Bright to provide administrative support to the Read to Succeed Philadelphia, a comprehensive, and intentional reading program that provides PreK-3rd grade students and their families with year-round opportunities to engage with and have access to reading materials and instruction.
South Philadelphia High School:
Seth Thuong – Seth, an 11th grader, is honored with a Community Schools award for his hard work and dedication to the school, his peers and community schools. He is Student Government Association president and does his best to lead his classmates and encourage them to get involved. He is always present, has provided assistance at almost every Community Schools event, and provides support to the community closet. Seth also engages in Out of School Time and any partnering programs that the Coordinator recommends. He is on the track team and embodies what it is to be a Southern Ram.
Pastor Darrell Hendricks – Pastor Hendricks has been nominated for a Community Schools award for being a presence at the school each week, encouraging our students, and supporting school initiatives. He has worked to organize volunteers to paint the school building, donates items in need, and encourages students to attend school and get involved. The Pastor motivates our students and instills leadership skills in them each week he is in the building. He is always willing to support the students whenever asked, and many times without being asked.
Ana Martinez – Ana, an 8th grader, is a recipient of the Community Schools Award because she embodies the qualities of a strong leader. Ana is genuinely concerned for others and uses her role as a member of the Student Council to advocate for her classmates. Ana makes it a point to see that new students, especially English Language Learners, have their needs met. She has become their spokesperson as they navigate a new environment. Ana has been part of our Southwark community since Kindergarten and has worked to make it a welcoming and caring place, reflecting her own values.
City Year Philadelphia – Year after year, the City Year Philadelphia teams serving at Southwark School exemplify the mission of Community Schools. Corps Members have a special way of reaching students, serving as role models and mentors both inside and outside the classroom. In addition to providing academic and social-emotional support during the school day, City Year also provides quality Out-of-School Time opportunities for students through homework support and club-based programming. Impact Manager Sarah Richman leads the City Year Southwark team with a big heart and a passion for both students and Corps Members. She is an active member of the school’s partner network and works with Corps Members to creatively respond to the needs of the school as they arise.
William Cramp Elementary School:
Ana Cruz – Ms. Cruz has worked at Cramp Elementary School since 1979. At 73 years of age, she still displays a tireless work ethic and provides essential services for Cramp families. Among many other services, Ms. Anna helps to register students in the school and provides translation and mediation help, all while providing clean uniforms, helping to give out backpacks, and handing out food for needy families. Ms. Cruz lives across the street from the school and is on call for whenever her community needs her. She is now serving the grandkids of those students she first served back in the 1970s.
Julie Cheifetz – Ms. Cheifetz is the Cramp School Counselor. She serves close to 500 students by herself and is resolute in her commitment to Cramp families. She is an integral part of the attendance team and consistently removes barriers to learning for families. However, her commitment to service doesn’t end there—she recently donated her kidney to her brother to help save his life. She was back at Cramp just a few short weeks later and immediately returned to serving Cramp families. She is not only a good samaritan, but an integral part of the Cramp community.
William T. Tilden Middle School:
Gabriella Moncriffe – Gabriella (Gabby) has been a Tilden student since fifth grade and will graduate next year as a second year Student Government president. She is a leader among her peers and inspires her classmates to succeed. Gabby is personally driven in terms of academics, and her classwork is always of superior quality. Gabby is also deeply involved in the school community. In addition to being an ambassador for Student Government, she is a member of the Tilden Track and Field team, the drama club, and is a consistent advocate for and participant in after-school programming.
Mrs. Patricia Bowe Rivers – Mrs. Rivers is the head of the Tilden Community School Personal Care Pantry in partnership with her organization, the Jennie Palmer Missionary Society of St. Paul A.M.E., of which she is the president. Mrs. Rivers’ background is centered around helping others. She is a Substance Use/Mental Health Counselor who has been in the field for approximately 30 years. She is also a Community Trauma Responder with the City of Philadelphia’s Network of Neighbors. She came to Tilden Middle School this year on a mission to care for children. Mrs. Rivers has been a consistent provider to our students, supplying them with simple things that can be taken for granted in regular self-care preparation. She loves talking to students and demonstrates strength, intelligence, and spiritual fortitude to our youth.