You may have heard that expanding community schools is one of Mayor Kenney’s biggest priorities. But many of you may still be wondering, what is a community school?

Simply put, community schools help students address issues in their lives that are preventing them from doing well academically. For example, a child who comes to school hungry, unable to see the board or struggling with any of the other effects of poverty can’t perform well academically. To address those issues, community schools provide in-house services like healthcare, childcare, job assistance or other services that both the students and their families need. In each community school, there is a full-time service coordinator who works with the students, teachers, and families to determine what services they want and need in their school. As a result, the services offered in each community school are often different, but the goal is the same: provide our students with the basic resources they need to succeed.

Isaiah Gonzalez, a senior at Kensington Health Science Academy, is a supporter of community schools because he has personally experienced the benefits of having increased support at his neighborhood school.

Isaiah grew up in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia with both parents, an older sister and two older brothers. When he was in middle school, both of his brothers were arrested and sent to prison. This family trauma caused Isaiah’s grades to slip.

“I can remember my mother saying she refused to see me go down the wrong path,” Isaiah said. So, Isaiah’s mother took him to Kensington Health Science Academy to find out if he could enroll. During that visit, Isaiah met Principal Williams, who asked Isaiah if, given the chance, he would work hard and prove himself. Isaiah agreed and worked with the schools community partners, including 12PLUS, Esperanza Health Clinic, and Caplan Family Charities, to help bring his grades up. By the end of his freshman year of high school, Isaiah obtained a 4.0 GPA.

“The teachers I had were amazing. They taught me well and were always there to help with whatever I needed,” Isaiah said. “The resources made available to me during my high school years have helped me become the best I can be. Throughout the past three years, I have continued to push through and strive to do all that I could.”

In June, Isaiah will graduate from Kensington Health Science Academy with a dental assistant certification. Having earned a scholarship to LaSalle University, he is eager to study biology as he pursues a career in the dental or medical field.

He attributes his success to the help and support of his parents, teachers, Principal Williams, and community partners of Kensington Health Science Academy.

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