Monday, November 23, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A recent article by Hayden Mitman of Star Publications showed that Port Richmond had one of the highest truancy rates of the entire city. The article stated that the 19134 zip code, which covers parts of Port Richmond and surrounding communities, had one of the highest truancy rates in 2008 with more than 60 percent of students missing a week or more of school. The 19125 zip code, which also covers parts of Port Richmond, had a high truancy rate with about 40 to 50 percent of students missing a week or more in 2008. These students are considered “chronically truant,” but the city is implementing plans to fight back.
Each week Philadelphia students are given free weekly SEPTA passes, which is only a small part of their effort to combat truancy rates. Students are also provided transportation via yellow school buses.
The city has also implemented a daytime curfew between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. If students are seen wandering the streets between these hours on school days, the city will fine parents a minimum of $25 and the parents of repeat truants may face fines of up to $300.
Students who are chronically truant are more likely to be involved in crime and are also more likely to drop-out of school before they graduate.
-Stephanie Hobson and Amy Fuhrmeister, Group 7, Port Richmond
On Tuesday evening, Nov. 10, the Somerton Civic Association held their meeting and had to go on without their President, Mary Jane Hazell.
The respected leader passed away early Sunday, Nov. 8 in her daughter's home. She was 76 years old and had been suffering from respiratory problems.
It is not often that you find someone who is passionate and committed to serving and giving back to their neighborhood. The neighborhood of Somerton in Northeast Philadelphia, was lucky to have the late Mary Jane Hazell, who was president of the Somerton Civic Association and served for 43 years as an active member.
With her help, Somerton was able to become one of the best neighborhoods in the Northeast and the Somerton Civic Association came to be known as one of the most influential in the whole city. In 2007 she won an award from the Philadelphia Eagles and Dunkin' Donuts, being placed on the list of the 75 Greatest Living Philadelphians. In addition, Republican state Rep. Brendan Boyle has said that she was one of the most important civic leaders in the history of Northeast Philadelphia.
(Hazell is in the picture above wearing yellow, second from left. Photo edited by Bill Achuff.)
Christeen Vilbrun and Sean Supplee, Group 20, Northeast Philadelphia
Philadelphia Brotherhood Rescue Mission is an organization that services Fishtown and those from surrounding areas. This organization has been standing for about 100 years and has aided thousands of individuals since its founding. The Philadelphia Brotherhood Mission is located between E. Columbia Ave and Girard Ave. They provide emergency and transitional housing for 75 to 100 men per night, but they offer meals and donate clothing to residents all over the Philadelphia area. Throughout their long history, they have never turned a needy soul away without assistance. Although the mission does great work, it often goes unnoticed. Walking into this faith-based organization, it is surprising to see how much work needs to be done on the building. The mission helps an enormous amount of residents and it keeps it doors open because of the generous donations they receive. The men that are helped are given spiritual guidance and life coaching in attempts to enhance their personal growth. The administration consists of men who are trained on how to assist addicts and men who are ordained ministers. Many of the ministers have been down their own paths of addiction and are able to help be the support that another man needs in order to transcend their situation. These men not only provide a safe place for those in need, but the give them a family and act as brothers.
The people have spoken: health care is a serious problem in America, and it needs to be resolved. It has been a topic throughout the years, and documentaries – more specifically the Michael Moore piece “Sicko” – have brought the debate to the populace. It was somewhat surprising to see how many people referenced the documentary when our group took a preliminary survey of the area. Others, of course, had their own nightmarish experiences to go off of in terms of health care: visits to the emergency room that have taken hours before people are actually seen, prioritizing pain by person, category and means of insurance and countless others.
While no one wanted to go on the record about their experiences, plenty had a lot to say or to comment in the matter. The general consensus is not surprising: as with the rest of the nation, the populace is not sufficed with the method of health care that we have now. Many, however, are optimistic that the matter will be resolved by the Obama administration within the near future. The citizens in the neighborhood have put their trust in the president and his fellow members of cabinet, but only time will tell if that trust is indeed valid.
Raymond Andrews and Katie Annesley, Team 12, Germantown.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This week, my partner and I had the opportunity to spend some time working in a different neighborhood. We ventured to Germantown to attend the first annual Northwest Philadelphia Community Café. The event was a forum for members of the Germantown and Mt. Airy community, featuring roundtables discussing important issues. We may have been far from Mantua (or at least it seemed that way), but we weren’t far from the same community issues expressed to us by residents.
Thinking back to one of our first stories, we listened to senior citizens in the Mantua community and their concerns about health care. It was conveyed to us that this percentage of the population was extremely important to the neighborhood and they would like to be able to take care of themselves, without worrying about insurance coverage The discussion about health care at the event in Germantown was definitely filled with the most emotion. No matter what legislation is passed, senior citizens are concerned about where they stand. It was interesting to see the similarities between the residents in the two neighborhoods. Many, who have not been to these neighborhoods to actually interact and observe residents, would probably never see the comparison.
Samantha J. Williams and Emily Freisher - Group 6 - Mantua
I still remember the first day that my partner and I started to do field work in Kensington. We tried to make a general consensus of the area in terms of ethnicity, economy, culture, safety, etc. We would go back and forth discussing how the neighborhood was predominantly Latino, and the businesses all seemed to be shut down. But from day one, the one thing that has always stuck in our minds was the amount of trash found in the neighborhood.
For the most part it seemed as if many people lost hope for the neighborhood. I recall a neighbor throwing a full bag of Dunkin Donuts and coffee right onto the sidewalk, even though the garbage was only a few feet away. At that point I knew that Kensington's environmental state would be a great topic to cover, and hopefully we will be able to focus on this topic for our final project.
So far I have been able to get in contact with a few community organizations, which are trying to help preserve Kensington's environment, and minimize it's trash problem. I found that the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society launched an initiative about five years ago called the "Green City Strategy." This initiative focuses on several parts of Philadelphia, which include New Kensington. I was also able to contact the New kensington Development Corporation, and the East Kensington Neighbors association.
Overall it seems that there are groups that are trying to help remove some of the trash in Kensington, but I have yet to see anything being done. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will be able to see some of the actions these groups are taking in order to help their community.
Herry Pierre-Louis and LaToya Allen, Kensington, 01
A moderate sound of gospel music flows down the street, luring customers inside as they sing along. The thrift store is run by Brian Hampton and his wife Helena Hampton. Ninety days into business, the Hamptons have been selling new and barely used clothes such as shoes, shirts, coats and accessories. Both men and women’s clothes are sold. Designers brands like Apple Bottoms, Steve Madden and Baby Phat are provided. Prices vary from five to a hundred dollars, however, it is customer satisfying.
Helena’s idea to take over the thrift store would help sell more of their wholesale items that she hasbeen selling at flea markets for the past three years. At the counter, items such as jewelry, hand bags, sunglasses and much more are sold. Although the Hamptons are not the original owners, they are proud to provide discount items. The store is open six days a week from eleven in the morning until six in the evening and closed on Sundays. Their busiest time of the day are usually around noon, soon after opening.
Kaira Patrick and Chelsea Sexauer
Group 14 Logan/Feltonville
The truck comes around at 10p.m. like clockwork to the neighborhoods of Fishtown and New Kensington and has been around for years. Hungry at that hour or not, who couldn’t splurge on a single slice of pizza?
Rita Neumann is the cook. The pizza dough is made in the back of the truck on a small oven and the sauce is homemade and sweet. The crust is thin, the cheese is gooey and the taste sensation is like boardwalk or carnival pizza and an experience unlike the corner store take out or delivery- it’s coming to you this time.
Some Fishtowners differ on the taste and quality of the pizza, but most agree that it’s a tradition and a memory that they treasure, of summer nights chasing down the truck and catching it on Berks, ordering Arctic freezes and a slice for $1. Now the price has risen to about $2.50 and there are additions to the menu, but the truck will always be known as a novelty and as a niche business idea in the neighborhood.
Melanie Menkevich and Jenn Matusiak. Group 9. Fishtown.
After having spent weeks working the phones, and talking to strangers with very little forward movement, I was driven back in time in just two hours on Monday. I woke up to a phone call from a gentleman who had written a book about Strawberry Mansion and its rich jewish history, Alan Meyers. Meyers was in the city (he lives in South Jersey) and wanted to know where I lived and if he could pick me up and show me around the neighborhood where he grew up. I ran to center city to get a camera and he picked me up, and within 90 minutes of having rolled out of bed, I was in over my head with information. I filled two tapes with footage and with interviews, and was able to go down almost every street. At least ninety percent of the churches in the neighborhood were synagogues, 33rd Street was the busiest street, and people used to go for walks around the reservoir on a regular basis.
“I think fixing Lancaster Avenue up is going to be great for our area. More people are going to want to shop around here, which is good for our economy,” said Robert Howell, who has been a resident of Mantua his whole life.
Not only will the program fix up the business section, but it will also go towards pedestrian lighting, public signage, sidewalks and greening, according to Phila.gov. All of this is being done with hopes to raise property value, and eventually turn the area into a great place to live, learn, shop, work, and play.
Tiffany Jackson & Dustin Khebzou, Group 8, Mantua/Parkside
During our visit to Project Rainbow, we spoke with Director Ann Marie Collins about the families that come to the Drueding Center for temporary housing and the many number of other resources they provide to help homeless women and their dependant children.
Collins explained that many of the problems women face—substance abuse, domestic violence, and poor education—are a result of childhood patterns repeating continuously. The women are abused by partners because they were by as children, they turn to drugs and alcohol because it has surrounded them all their lives, and many of them are illiterate because their public education failed them and allowed them to slip through the cracks.
Project Rainbow understands that these patterns cannot be broken with temporary solutions. This is why the program puts such a strong emphasis on counseling, because its impossible for a person to succeed if they are crippled by the events of their past. Project Rainbow also councils and tutors the children in the program, helping them to adjust to the unstable environments they’ve grown up in. Collins told us that many of the children in the program under the age of 12 have attempted suicide.
The caseworkers at Project Rainbow have tried to give more to these families than temporary support. Workers visit families up to seven years after they have graduated from the program, reminding women of their goals, keeping them from falling into old habits, and giving them education and resources such as job training, day care and advice. This checking up is what makes Project Rainbow such an exceptional organization—they don’t view these families as incoming and outgoing cases but as people with complex problems who sometimes need to be reminded that someone believes they can succeed.
Jessica Fowler and Evan Casey, Group 15, Ludlow
I'm posting a blog this week about this story, because I think it's important, and because it didn't make the cut for the site.
Ayuda Community Center has an after school program for the kids of Hunting Park, called the "Art House." Or rather, the "Art House" is the location for the programs, but it offers a wide variety of programs for the youth. On Saturday, the 14th, they toured the house to show the community what is going on behind its walls, which fell into Ayuda's possession in August. They have made the house into several different studios for different mediums, from mixed media, to recording arts, to a music room. Michaelanne Harriman is the director and says it's "the most exciting thing to happen to Ayuda in a while."
The update that would be unlike the story is that the kids have their fall exhibit on Friday, December 11th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Admission is $10, and there will be several points of interest. The mixed media and pastels group will be displaying their artwork, the choir will be performing, and the video class will be displaying their works. I got to see some of the work, and recommend that anyone who can, go check it out.
"They look the same," Petersen said. "You wouldn't know by looking at a waiting room, who is coming to the clinic and who can pay out of their own pocket, so why can't they have contact?"
Though racial disparities in health care may be blatant, it is more often the little things that add up to an unequal system, a system that relies on physical markers like race to signify who is able to pay and, therefore, who deserves more attention.
Petersen, Jr. is one doctor who was interviewed for the documentary The Deadliest Disease in America, which was screened at Temple University's Medical School on Thursday, Nov. 12. The film is about unequal treatment in health care based on race. After the screening, Petersen, the director and others involved in the film participated in workshops to discuss the content of the film. Director Crystal Emery is screening the film with these workshops across the nation, as part of her goal to - as the Web site states - "reduce barriers of access to health care."
Organizers and participators of the event were positive about its outcome.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how West Philadelphia High School has been one of the most dangerous and under-performing schools in the state for over a decade now.
But unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to really focus on all the great things that school has been doing. Most notably, their Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering and the West Philly Hybrid X Team.
Aside from being the only certified auto academy in the city’s 291 public schools, it’s 15-member EVX team has won numerous awards including the 2002, 2005 and 2006 Tour de Sol and the 2007 21st Century Automotive Challenge.
And now, they’re looking to win another: the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.
The competition requires entrants to create an affordable, four-passenger car that gets 100 mpg and has amenities such as air-conditioning and a sound system. They must also submit a business plan which shows that it’s possi
ble to manufacture at least 10,000 of the vehicles a year and sell them at a competitive price.
The contest will award $5 million for the best four-door economy car and two prizes of $2.5 million for the best two-seater cars. Having submitted applications for both categories, the West Philly EVX team have a chance to bring home $7.5 million which would go into a scholarship fund.
They submitted their plans for both vehicles to X PRIZE judges early this year along with 90 other teams from around the world. And last month, they were one of the 43 contestants chosen to continue on.
A week after they got the news, the students of the EVX team were making national headlines. They even appeared on The Today Show where they unveiled their hyper-modified Ford Focus car.
Not only is West Philadelphia H.S the only high school in the competition but they’re competing against several Fortune 500 companies and some of the most prestigious universities in the country such as Cornell University.
So what are the chances that a couple of kids from a notorious inner-city high school could win a multi-million dollar prize and potentially revolutionize the auto industry?
Well, already the editors at Popular Mechanics, which evaluated the finalists' proposals, have put them in their list of the top-10 contestants most likely to win.
The only thing standing in their way: money.
So far the school has raised $300,000 in grants while Drexel University is helping them develop their business plan. But considering the impressive bank accounts of their competitors, the West Philly EVX team still needs at least $80,000 for them to really stay in the game.
They’re currently accepting online donations at evxteam.org and will be holding a big fundraiser in January.
In the meantime, the students will continue to work diligently to finish their cars and business plans before the spring deadline. The winners will be announced next October.
During their Today Show appearance, former first-daughter, Jenna Bush Hager asked team member Azim Hill what keeps the group motivated.
“We’re showing that young people from the inner city can achieve, especially when you give them the right resources,” he replied.
-Nicole Finkbiner and Candice Walker, Group 23, Wanut Hill/Garden Court
Sunday, November 15, 2009
William Anderson Payne is under the bridge at Second Street and Indiana Avenue. He stands beside the freight tracks in a make shift bedroom. The bed has risers and a headboard. Someone has managed to pull a garden house under the bridge. It constantly gushes water and under it lies old toothbrushes and needles muddy in the dirt. “It's someone's house,” says Payne of the set up.
“I'm just waking up, ya'll gotta let me get my shot up, get my drugs in my first,” he says as he turns his back to us and empties light brown powder into a metal “cooker” used to heat the drugs.
He tells us we make him nervous, and periodically asks us if we're cops. Then he is calm.
Payne lives on the street, and spends most of his nights in an abandoned van. Some nights, he will sign up for a bed at the RHD Ridge Center, a shelter on Broad Street and Ridge Avenue.
“They give you a bed but if you stay out and don't go in when you're supposed to they give your bed to someone else,” he says of the shelter.
Payne is the youngest of 14 children. All of his siblings are girls. He says he could stay with them, but he chooses not to.
“I'm my own man. I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do when I'm gonna do it,” he says. He plans on visiting one of his sisters in Massachusetts in a few weeks. His favorite place to visit is Denver. He says he doesn't mind the cold.
When we tell Payne we're journalists, he asks us if we help people get housing. He looks disappointed when we say no. Nikki Volpicelli and Jonathan Vigeurs Group 11 Fairhill
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The Nicetown Court, a brand-new low-income tax-credit housing and commercial building, will bring nothing but a positive economic boost to the Nicetown neighborhood. The building complex, which will be built at the 4300 block of Germantown Avenue, includes about 4,000 square feet of commercial space along with 37 affordable rental units. The Nicetown Community Development Corporation (CDC) received approximately $2.5 million from State Representative Chaka Fattah, who represents the state's 2nd District, which will go directly towards the Nicetown Court construction project.
One can't help but notice the state of the buildings in Hunting Park. In fact, everywhere you turn there are buildings practically screaming to be improved. With so much potential, the changing and updating of these buildings is just what Hunting Park needs in order to help turn itself into a more flourishing part of the city.
It doesn’t take the most astute observer to notice the lack of grocery stores in Philadelphia, especially in low income neighborhoods. Throughout the years, a lack of healthy food options has resulted in staggering rise in obesity throughout the city. Building large, new grocery stores is difficult for many neighborhoods due to lack of space and funding.
According to customers at J&S Produce, located on 5th and W. Chew Ave., local produce stores may be a better option than grocery stores. Due to the location in the neighborhood as well as its proximity to local homes and business, shopping healthy becomes more convenient for residents.
The customers also enjoy the intimacy of the store, as people entering the shop are greeted with smiles, while regulars engage in friendly conversation with employees and fellow shoppers alike.
Prices may be higher than the competition, but customers don't seem to mind, knowing that the money they spend here is money invested into the community.
Although space is limited and the selection is not as extensive as grocery stores, J&S keeps a steady flow of customers throughout the day. The shop has been providing fresh produce to the area for over 20 years.
Matt Bell and Kristen van Genderen
Recent changes to local zoning laws in Germantown have opened up the area to proposals to renovate and update almost 50 sites around the community.
Most of the buildings that are being considered are blighted property of commercial or historical significance. Places like the old Germantown Town Hall and even the Wayne Junction is on the list, but most of the focus is on commercial assets. After traveling around the neighborhood a few months, it doesn't take an engineer to see that Germantown is a very old place and therefore literally crumbling.
All over Germantown buildings are abandoned and many constitute a threat to safety, yet industrial and commercial centers are not the only buildings crumbling. Many homes around Germantown are over 100 years old and are also failing.
Assessing the soundness of some of the residential structures of need would be a good start and would show the people of Germantown that their leaders care about their safety. Then again it is easy to speculate and who knows how many people would be out of a home if every building was thoroughly inspected.
There is a fight amongst community leaders over group housing - an issue they consider pressing but if the "group" that is being housed didn't have a home then they would likely be out on the streets.
“If we could tackle group homes for Germantown through zoning we would, but we can’t,” said one official to the Germantown Courier. "Zoning-out" this type of housing has been declared federally illegal and a form of discrimination.
One might wonder why more isn't being done to update many of the facilities that offer group housing to those who can not afford there own. The YMCA of Germantown is a prime example of a place that needs the money to update the facilities but it isn't being considered. The Germantown YMCA is in fact older than the original YMCA and was home to many historical significant African-American sports figure. The building has also provided a home for many local homeless men a practice that may unofficially still be occurring.
It seems like once again officials run local governments like a business and do more in terms of generating revenue than protect people. It is a noble cause to update many of the failing structures, some even historical landmarks; but to not consider improving the conditions of the residents of Germantown is another example of a government showing the people who a bureaucracy really works for - anyone with the money.
Using Google, I found three local employment services in Kensington: Temporary Employment Services Inc., Eagle Employment and Minority Personnel Inc. I thought I was off to a good start until I started making phone calls. I was met with the monotonous recording that we’re all too familiar with: “The number you have dialed is currently not in service…” Immediately I thought this was a tragic situation. Not because I had to come up with another story idea but because of the statistics of Kensington residents. Of the total population, 12 percent are unemployed and 53 percent are not in the labor force. The media household income is $17,136 and a staggering 49 percent of Kensington residents are below the poverty level.
This information is readily accessible in the most recent U.S. census to anyone who cares to see it. Local officials need to start paying more attention and combat this issue directly. Employment services in Kensington need to be re-opened or new ones need to be established so that the situation of those living in Kensington can be improved by their accessibility to more jobs.
LaToya Allen and Herry Pierre-Louis, Group 1, Kensington
For the past 10 years Food Not Bombs have recovered food that is just past its selling date and used it to feed people in need. Setting up at 5 p.m. every Wednesday in Clark Park, 50th and Baltimore, the organization provides vegetarian and vegan food to approximately 50-80 people—rain or shine. The group has no corporate backing and is very loosely organized by one or two people at time. It is a collective of three to four volunteers from the community who get together each week to help those in need in their own neighborhoods. It took the volunteers a little over an hour to cook the food, about 40 minutes to transport it and 30 minutes to serve the food in the park.
Covering this story really made me realize just how effective a couple hours of your week can be, and how much of a difference a single person can actually make.
Dustin Khebzou and Tiffany Jackson,
Group 8, Mantua Parkside
The church of St. Adalbert dates back to 1904—and that it shows, with its fine crafted architecture and sculpting. Like many churches years ago, St. Adalbert’s held its masses in Latin and activities in Polish. The church opened its doors initially to Polish American’s back in the immigration decade and also developed St. Adalbert’s school—a Polish-catholic Private school.
With changing times comes changing titles, as the school
was renamed Our Lady of Port Richmond Regional School and services at the church now being served in English along with Polish.
This hard to miss church might be a big sight but it doesn’t make a big commotion. It sits quietly along the busy Allegheny Street next to a likewise community park.
Group 7, Port Richmond
When walking on the sidewalks, rest assure, no matter how hot the sun is, or whatever may be clouding your mind that day, you can always find reprieve under the shade that the great big, hale and hearty trees provide. The leaves are verdant green grass, and the air seems even more fresh and unpolluted than the “everyday” contaminate city air we breathe. And the people seem even friendlier, I would imagine because the environment around them is so clean, light and relaxing.
Neighborhoods like these should be models for others that aren’t so lucky. What better motivation than spic and span streets and spotless sidewalks. It was just about heavenly to walk through such a sparkling neighborhood-almost like being next to godliness…surprising, how cleanliness can make a person feel.
By: Candice Walker, Group 23
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
For students traveling to the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), located on Spring Garden, the subway line is the quickest and easiest way for them to get there. Logan resident, Sara Medaciel traveled forty minutes to school during the strike because of traffic. Even though it was only a ten minute increase to her usual routine with Septa, it was an inconvenience in getting to class on time.
Chelsea Sexauer and Kaira Patrick
The SEPTA strike came as a surprise to everyone, making it impossible for many Philadelphia residents to get to work or school. It posed even more of a pain for me, trying to get to Fishtown because the only way to get there is the Market-Frankford line. So I did the only thing I could think of; I mapped the hike from Temple's campus to Fishtown, where I was supposed to be attending a Nintendo party. Forty minutes and a long walk later, I finally got to my destination, where a guy with a mohawk had everyone's attention as he was ranting furiously. I could only assume it was about the strike.
And I was right. Mike Kranik had just endured a three hour train ride on top of a half hour taxi cab ride. Total cost? Thirty-six dollars. "I was just trying to come home from a friend's house in the suburbs," he said. "The train was delayed over an hour, and then it took forever to finally get to the city." Kranik couldn't believe the amount of people that were in Suburban Station, waiting in lines for trains, the last hopes of public transportation during the strike. "And they made me pay for that," said Kranik. "I mean seriously, if the train is delayed over an hour, how the hell can you even make people pay for a ticket? It's just ridiculous." Kranik says that everyone on the train that day was in a terrible mood; endless rows of angry, bitter people. I'm sure that those people are grateful that the strike is now over.
By Jenn Matusiak and Melanie Menkevich
With our last couple of stories due within the next month. Nikki and I decided it would probably be a good idea to start brainstorming. Like usual, she came up with a plethora of relevant ideas that we could use for the last project. I, on the other hand, came up with nothing.
Our plan is pretty simple and hasn’t changed much since the beginning of the semester: we’re going to walk around Fairhill and try to find anyone that will talk to us. Unlike the beginning of the semester, now we have a leg up. We have connections. We’re going to use the contacts we’ve made over the past few months to establish new contacts
and write amazing stories, I hope. We’re going to go back to Prevention Point Philadelphia and ask about the community clean ups they run. We’re want to find our patrolling officer friends and ask them what really happens on those abandoned train tracks. From above the tracks may look like a community garbage can, but the over passes provide invaluable shelter for those without homes. And I’m sure our friend Clyde from the t-shirt shop will something to say about the topics of housing, health care, or the environment.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, our final project is going to be something special.
Jonathan Viguers and Nikki Volpicelli. Group 11. Fairhill.
Last month, we learned of the future closing of one of Fishtown’s most beloved schools: Northeast Catholic High School. Since the opening of its doors in September 1926 according to the schools website, Northeast Catholic High School “educates students according to Catholic, Christian tradition enabling them to function well in the world”. With a focus on religion and academic excellence, Northeast Catholic is also the only all male high school in the Fishtown area, servicing young males from the Port Richmond, Bridesburg, Kensington, Fishtown and Frankford neighborhoods.
The recent news of the June 2010 closing of Northeast Catholic has caused many of its alumni to protest, write letters and flood the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s office with multiple phone calls in an effort to save their beloved alma mater. Many of Northeast Catholic’s alumni still reside in their childhood neighborhoods. The Archdiocese cites their decision for the schools closing based on an in-depth study, stating that the enrollment has been reduced to half of its maximum occupancy. During the 1950’s, Northeast’s occupancy reached an all time high of close to 5,000. Some Fishtown residents although upset with the devastating decision, believe that the current loss of economy and businesses within the Fishtown area may be to blame for the closing of Northeast Catholic. Only time will tell the future of Northeast Catholic and its students.
By: Ninah Bell and Ayana Comrie, fa0921fishtown
Eddie Branch (pictured), lives on 31st street right near Girard- just a few feet away from the Brewerytown flat's, Westrum's town home development. He sees the investment in his neighborhood to be a good thing but wishes it was a little cheaper.
"To make you want to live here you got to have plenty of money," said Branch. "A guy like me couldn't afford that."
He says the homes are sold from anywhere between $225,000 to $350,000. Branch sees why so many would want to move to the area.
"Center City is 15 mins way, it's easy access," he said.
It's even made his life a little easier. With more residents at a higher price point services like delivery, safety and transportation are easier to come by.
"I noticed since they built the houses down here you get a lot more cab service," said Branch. "Before you couldn't get a cab to come down here."
But not everyone is so quickly charmed. Vanessa Jones, an Upper Darby resident works at Penrose Development.
"I think it needs to be built up a little better," said Jones. "A lot of strange people and strange things going on."
Kevin Cook and Marilyn S. D'Angelo
People’s Emergency Care Center houses families, typically single mothers, who cannot afford traditional housing opportunities. There are options for emergency, transitional, or permanent housing, and a new apartment complex, just off Lancaster Avenue on 39th Street . After visit
Monday, November 9, 2009
To improve the community of Kensington, the New Kensington Community Development Center is putting together a way to make vacant land more useful. By Introducing "Modular Housing," the neighborhood will start to build a brand new look.
The NKCDC has provided the groundwork for a project that places rendered weeHouse developments on existing vacant lots within the community. By managing the wide number of vacant land in the area the weeHouse will soon be a vital part of the community.
Along with remodeling existing structures, NKCDC seeks to provide additional low and middle-income housing opportunities within the neighborhood. Pursuing design innovation while meeting the criteria for government financial support for these projects is both a goal and constant challenge.
Over time, and with a willingness to adopt new strategies, programs like weeHouse can evolve into an accepted option for innovative housing that proves beneficial in its cost-efficient process.
Hopefully with the addition of the weeHouse it will lead to more projects along these lines to improve the overall quality of the community.
By Carmen Del Mastro
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Living in America, we are lucky enough to have the things that are most important to us, including our freedom. However, we sometimes tend to forget those who fight for us to get where we are. Our soldiers and veterans are important and vital to our American life--even when we do not agree with the war.
Bill Eves fought during the Vietnam War and at the time, most Americans were against it. According to him, coming home and readjusting to American life was hard because most people did not want to talk about the war, yet along see the soldiers. He says he can relate to those who are currently over in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting a war that the rest of the country is against. He also emphasized the importance of supporting our soldiers and making them feel loved. Otherwise, they can become isolated, making it difficult for them to get on with normal everyday life. Bill himself, has been going to therapy for over 40 years to help him get through his experiences.
Today, Bill is the chairman of the Philadelphia Compound Veterans Committee at the Naval Support Activity Center in Northeast Philadelphia. With Veterans' Day coming up, he is currently helping to put together the annual celebration honoring our brave soldiers.
Christeen Vilbrun and Sean Supplee,
Group 20, Northeast Philadelphia
As a human being, I know the importance of being aware of the feelings of those around you and especially to proceed with caution when dealing with those who may be dealing with troubling or even embarrassing circumstances. As a journalist, I’m learning that that awareness is doubly important, which is a lesson that Marco and I, to some extent, learned on the fly in our recent adventures uncovering a story in Germantown.
While working on our individual enterprises, Marco and I ran into a bit of a sensitivity issue. That issue was dealing with and working around homeless families while attempting to film a move into a new church. See, several churches in the Germantown area house homeless families for several weeks at a time and sort of rotate them around from church to church. As we were filming one of these moves, we found it very important to be sensitive towards the families and their wishes to either be on camera or not. More importantly though, we found it almost essential to build a trust with the families and let them know that we weren’t there to make it known that they were homeless, but to instead tell the story about how these local churches help the homeless.
In order to build a relationship with the families, we decided to not just film the move but to also help with the move which in turn, helped us interact with those involved instead of just be watchers from the outside in. Through this, we found that many of the family members became accepting of us and even began approaching us as the day went on. Despite the fabulous story we got out of they day, I think both of us also walked away with a sense that we were apart of something good and even felt good about ourselves for not acting like just a couple of journalists focused on trying to get a story, but instead as people who firstly wanted to help and secondly wanted a story.
While searching for information and interviews for my individual enterprise project, I came along an interesting group of Kensington students. A few years ago Kensington High School was broken up into different schools in order to preserve the quality of education. Classrooms were congested, students had absolutely nor relationship with their teachers, and the students weren't getting the type of care they deserved. Youth United for Change was one of the main organizations which helped with the initial break-up of the schools. YUC is an organization which basically gives students in the Philadelphia schools system a voice. Now the students are claiming that they were not given what they asked for.
Karla Elis Mota Rojas, 17, is a high school senior at Kensington CAPA, which was one of the smaller schools. Rojas explains that the problem with the separation of the schools was that they weren't necessarily "separated." The school district simply built a wall that turned one school into two.
"We weren't given what we were promised," explained Rojas. "But after fighting with my fellow youth leaders at YUC, Kensington CAPA will be opening their new building next September."
There will be two meetings, November 10th and November 18th, which will further the talks of improving Kensington's schools. Rojas and other youth leaders from YUC will be attending the meeting. Even though she will be in college by the time the new school opens, Rojas is proud that her hard work and voice helped make a difference. Rightly so.
Herry Pierre-Louis and Latoya Allen, Kensington, 1
Gentrification is a term sometimes used in passing by universities and developers but when a historically low-income neighborhood with property rates of $8000 per home is now competing with new construction selling for $200,000+ the word takes on a whole new meaning.
Chain stores and vinyl siding move into an area displacing its original tenants. Those who have lived in the neighborhood for years can no longer afford rental rates. Businesses are now saught after and property owners raise rents as well, keeping local business owners out of the loop in their own neighborhoods.
But from the other side of the argument, underdeveloped areas with high rates of abandoned houses, and empty lots, limited economic recourse and few jobs, the gentrified areas are only helping the greater economy and market. But who is right and who is to blame? Right and wrong is not the answer but it affects the old residents as well as the new families to move into the area.
Walk around anytime of the day and the age range will differentiate accordingly. Caution beware though after dark in the open area, just as anyone should be in a city setting. Visitors are seen frequently with strollers, dogs and walkers. All walks of life stroll around in this green filled setting.
The Friends of Campbell group is interactive with the community by bringing events to the wandering walks of the park on week nights and the summer season.
Amy Fuhrmeister & Stephanie Hobson
Group 7, Port Richmond
Michele Pankey, director and owner of Natural Touch and Nurturing Academy Childcare, partnered with her daughter in opening their own daycare center a year ago. Luckily, having saved money previously, they were able to make it through without funding. However, they did not get paid at all during that time.
Out of a classroom of 13 students, only 4 of them pay to attend Natural Touch. The other 9 children are covered by the state funding.
Pankey stated that the larger day care centers could not afford to keep their employees due to budget cuts. This, in turn, led to an improper ratio of care givers verses children, which ultimately led to the closings.
Thanks to higher tax rates, the day care funding from the state has returned, and hopefully now the funding can be more reliable.
Kristen van Genderen and Matt Bell. Group 3. Olney.
The Keller sisters and sister-in-law who opened the Hot Potato Cafe in 2007 and agreed to a makeover from Gordon Ramsay and Kitchen Nightmares in 2009 are hoping for the best.
They also said that Chef Ramsay could at times be mean and utterly blunt; but they were not surprised and they accepted the criticism that they hoped was constructive.
Claire and her sister Kathryn live about ten minutes away from the Hot Potato Cafe. Even though he never entered her home, Claire said Ramsay could hit close to it, asking questions about her personal life and making her nervous about coming in to work each day.
Owning a restaurant is hard enough without having to worry about the financial difficulties. “The financial hardships are huge,” said Erin.
“The amount of money that all three of us have invested is mind-blowing, so ultimately it affects our personal lives and our individual families. I appreciate that I co-own this business because of the amount of time that has been invested. I couldn't imagine being a single owner and not having anyone to share the work with. My family would have never seen me.”
The restaurant has changed its hours from serving lunch to only dinner and canceled their Sunday brunches in an effort to cut costs and cope with slow business.
Melanie Menkevich and Jenn Matusiak. Group 9. Fishtown.