Two Furness High students recently built a school in Haiti over their spring break. Sophomore’s Isaiah Randolph and Derek Samoul Seang lived with a host family for two weeks and experienced the simplicity and challenges of life in a developing nation without resources like running water or electricity.
“Going to Haiti, was the ultimate learning experience for us and for the people and students who lived there,” said Samoul Seang. “We literally learned from each other. When we first got there we had a welcoming celebration, where we met the host family. We danced with the family and the kids. They didn’t speak fluent English, so a lot of the conversation we had among each other was through a translator who helped us communicate with them. We adapted to the culture and we also learned their language.
“It was an adjustment living with the host family. It was scary at night because bugs would be crawling around you. Despite the limited resources, everyone in Haiti was happy and extremely grateful for us coming. They welcomed us with open arms.”
The trip was through the BuildOn and Trek Knowledge programs. In addition to Randolph and Samoul Seang, there were four other students who went to Haiti from the Philadelphia School District. Once in Haiti, the students partnered with students from the BuildOn program in California.
“We both received information on BuildOn prior to actually being a part of the program,” Randolph said. “Through the program is how we got to be a part of this opportunity. The whole purpose of going to Haiti was to help the children of Haiti get a better education by helping build a school. Where we stayed, the nearest school was literally two hours away, so we actually helped with the process of building a school, so that students can get a education closer to where they lived.”
BuildOn is breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. BuildOn runs youth service programs that mobilize urban teens to change both their communities and the world through intensive local community service and by building schools in developing countries.
Every year, select students from BuildOn’s afterschool programs participate in Trek for Knowledge, where they help construct a school in a remote village. Students mix concrete, make bricks and form walls by hand alongside villagers. They also spend time every day on the worksite constructing the school, and also attend cultural workshops to help learn more about the people and the country they are working in.
“Building the school was hard work,” said Samoul Seang. “We would work for about three hours a day on the school itself. Because it was so hot there, we were told to drink a lot of water, so that we wouldn’t get sick. I was moving and picking up rocks, sometimes the rocks would actually cut through my gloves.
“We all gave it 100 percent. It wasn’t about us, it was really about the kids and that’s why we wanted to go. We never been through anything like that before, but in the end it was worth it, because we did it for the kids and the community. It was not only a humbling experience, but the trip was something that I’ll never forget. I would definitely go back if given the chance to.”
The students who went to Haiti did not get a chance to finish the school. The students actually work with community members to start the school. Once the students leave, the community members finish the schools.
For Randolph, the trip wasn’t just about helping those in need in Haiti, but it was also about be thankful for the blessings in life.
“The people in Haiti didn’t have a lot, but they had enough,” Randolph said. “Seeing what they have to go through day in and out really made me appreciate everything that I have. I use to complain about not having this or that and their resources are limited and they didn’t complain at all.
“The Haiti trip really made me see the bigger picture and be appreciative for life and everything that I have. I went there to help them and in the end they helped me. I’m grateful, humbled, and appreciative for this experience. I will definitely do it again. I want to do it again.”
Seven members of the Philadelphia High School for Girls Service Club Group recently won at the Jefferson Awards for public service. The school won Gold and was considered a 2013 Service Leadership School.
“It was truly an accomplishment for Girls High to win Gold at the Jefferson awards,” said senior Samuella Takyi-Buachie. “Our school not only has high academic standards, but we are constantly volunteering and finding new ways to give back to the community. For us, volunteering is not a project, but a way of life. We want to continue to volunteer and show future Girls High students that in addition to achieving academic excellence, volunteering is what will help make this world a better place.”
The Jefferson Awards is a program geared for youth and high schools. The goal of the program is to spread the idea of volunteerism in the community. Each year, the Jefferson Awards has a competition where students have to present the ideas of what they learned through volunteering.
“In the Jefferson Awards competition, there are seven goals and those goals are centered around increasing volunteerism in the community,” said senior Oumourumana Jallah. “The competition was held in April and we met with other students who are also involved with this program. We present how we achieved each of our goals that the Jefferson Awards program has set up and from there they score us. They gave a certificate for everyone who participated, but there are also medals handed out. Our school won Gold.”
This year, Girls High collaborated with Widener Memorial School, which is a school designed for disabled children. Students at the school also made Valentine’s Day cards for children who were at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Because Widener is very close to Girls High and we already worked with them before, it was natural for us to want to volunteer there because we already established a bond with the students,” said senior Princess Garrett. “We wanted to create a service where everyone would benefit from it. We just wanted to do a project where both sides could make a difference in the world.”
The students at Girls High had to put together a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation highlighted both Girls High and the school’s volunteer work. Girls High volunteered for a total of 46,000 hours which totals economically to about $1 million worth of volunteerism. They also had to share stories of the community and developed a website.
“The girls really worked hard on the presentation,” said service club sponsor Louis Austin. “They told their story of what Girls High does and how we are constantly volunteering. The girls were given seven minutes to present the Girls High story. I’m really proud of all of these young ladies. They worked extremely hard and did a great job.”
There were six other schools that competed in the Jefferson Awards. The other schools that participated were also from Philadelphia. There were two winners for each level.
“Winning Gold was a huge accomplishment for Girls High because this was second year that,” said junior Yun Huang. “We did an amazing job. We all worked together on the presentation and prior to the presentation. It was really hard, but we all got it done and the reward was great. We felt accomplished and successful afterwards.”
For junior Jamie Nguyen, being a part of the program is about helping everyone in the community.
“I think it’s important to be a part of a program like this because it doesn’t just benefits us, but it also benefits everyone around us,” Nguyen said. “When we participate in this program it increases our volunteering capacity. We’re not just volunteering in our school, but also outside of the community. We do volunteer work with hospitals, schools, and various organizations, so what we’re doing is benefitting everyone whether its directly or indirectly.”
Tips for Parents to Address Bullying
Focus on your child. Be supportive, listen and gather information about the incident. Try doing an activity while talking such as; walking, baking, or riding bikes.
Never tell your child to ignore bullying. What your child may “hear” is that you are going to ignore it. If your child were able to simply ignore it, he or she likely would not have told you about it. Often, trying to ignore bullying allows the situation to become more serious.
Contact your child’s teacher or principal to report bullying and to find out about the school’s bullying prevention plan. Give specific details and then ask for the next steps from the school. Follow up.
Keep your emotions in check. Give factual information about your child’s experience of being bullied, including who, what, when, where and how.
Help your child become more resilient. Talk to your child about being friends with certain people and knowing which friends he or she can count on. Support positive relationships by encouraging them to hang out with kids that make them feel good about themselves.
Cyber-bullying Tips for Parents
Ask your child questions, maintain an open dialogue.
Keep computer in a common room.
Talk about your expectations regarding acceptable online/phone behavior before they receive the privilege. Behavior online should be the same as what you would do in person or in front of someone you respect.
Make agreements and set boundaries about accepted use and behavior for online/ phone communication. Often youth don’t tell parents because they fear losing technology privileges.
Help child think through how the information they put online reflects on them.
Inform youth about legal limits and future consequences of harmful posting online or by phone.
Tips for Youth to Stop Bullying
Keep yourself safe.
Get help. Tell a trusted adult if you see someone in trouble.
Support the target. Ask them to join in an activity with you
Distract. Tell the aggressor you don’t like talking about people or change the subject.
Support the person who is being bullied (help them pick up their books, take them to someone who can help, there is power in numbers– just stand beside the person, or ask other friends to support the person).
Cyber-bullying Tips for Youth
Don’t initiate, respond to, or forward harmful messages.
Think! If something mean is posted or texted about you, don’t respond immediately, take a breath and give yourself time to think through your next step. Don’t react immediately.
Think about your reputation– would you want your grandma, teacher, future employer, someone you don’t know-to see that?
Privacy– Keep intimate and personal info– private.
Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable– save and tell an adult.
Be safe– Don’t meet unknown internet friends without talking to your parents or another adult about it.
Enter Room 106 at Edwin M. Stanton School and see seventh-grade students sitting in a circle discussing the book “Monster,” written by Walter Dean Myers. Students can be seen debating on whether or not the main character of the book actual committed the crime. The discussion was just a warm-up to a mock trial students would be having about the book.
“Having an open discussion and eventually a mock trial on the book “Monster” is just one of the many things that makes this school so great,” said seventh-grader Ailisha Goodwin-Dancy. “The teachers here really do a good job of finding different and fun ways for us to interact through the lessons we are learning.
“With ‘Monster,’ we’re finding out ways how to agree/disagree and take criticism. Through the discussion, it not only allows us to state our points and listen to one another’s opinion, but it also allows us to find solutions to the problems. I’m looking forward to the mock trial and having everyone state their case.”
Seventh-grader Saniyah Robinson also enjoyed reading the book “Monster.”
“I liked reading the book because it allowed us to think outside of the box; everything is not always what it seems,” Robinson said. “English is one of my favorite subjects this year. My teacher really gives us different projects that allows us to think critically. I’m always learning something new in that class. I’m excited about doing the mock trial.”
Stanton is a K-8 Cultural Arts School. Students who attend Stanton study various cultures focusing on the four art forms including music, art, drama and dance.
“Our students have numerous opportunities to be exposed to a variety of unique programs at Stanton,” said principal Stacey Burnley. “They understand that achieving academic excellence is the ultimate goal here, but we’re also able to make that link between academics and cultural arts.
“We are able to expose the students to different things both inside the school and out. We just don’t want our students to be successful academically, but we also want to help them grow personally. Through our high standards of excellence in academics with the theme of cultural arts, we’re able to do both and help prepare them for their future.”
In addition to the core curriculum, some of the art programs at Stanton include drum line, dance, instrumental and vocal. About 40 students participate in drumming and 15 students participate in the violin classes. Students can start taking percussion and violin classes in the fourth grade. All students who participate in the classes meets weekly. The students at Stanton recently performed at Lincoln University for their Black History program.
“We have a lot of extracurricular activities at Stanton,” said seventh-grader Zafir Fuller. “The school really presents us with different opportunities to succeed outside of just academics. I participate in the drumming, but I also like to sing. I’ve been doing both for a long time. If you go to Stanton your guaranteed to go to a good high school once you leave here.”
Seventh-grader Yasir Harris takes full advantage of the cultural arts programs at Stanton. Harris participates in drumming, he used to dance, and he also raps.
“I just try to take full advantage of the opportunities that is given to me here,” Harris said. “Stanton is a good school. Academics wise is one of the best, we’ve been making AYP for a very long time. The teachers are really good and want to see us succeed.
“The music program here is great. I’ve always be drawn to music, so being a part of drumming and also rapping allows me to express myself creatively. I’ve been rapping since second grade and I’m continuing to get better as I get older. I love it. I’m really enjoying my experience at Stanton.”
Stanton has numerous partnerships with various organizations throughout the city of Philadelphia including Bainbridge House, University of the Arts, The Clay Studio, Moore College of Art, The Penn Council on the Arts, Master African Drumming Artist Singing City Choir, Dream Flags Project, Old City Music, Shakespeare Project, The School at Rose Valley, The Picasso Project, CAPA, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
“I’ve been at Stanton for three years and my experience has been great,” said sixth-grader Shawlon Gibson. “There’s a lot of different opportunities at the school; it’s really up to all of us to take full advantage of it. I dance and do drumming and because it, I’ve been able to do things that I might now been able to do anywhere else. I wouldn’t be growing into the person I am if I didn’t go to Stanton.”
Hearing students speak Arabic in class, seeing them engaged in a forensics science class with teacher Rennu Teli-Johnson, and watching Principal Yvonne J. Jones speak words of wisdom to the school’s seniors, are just some of the activities that go on during a normal school day at Motivation High School.
“It’s really the teachers, staff, and principal that help our high school journey at the school so successful,” said junior Imani Jones. “All of them really have our back and they want to see us succeed. They know how to help you when you’re having problems and give you that extra push when you feel like giving up. What makes Motivation special is the bond all of us have with one another. We’re a family here.”
Known for its academic excellence, Motivation is a liberal arts college preparatory school. The school’s purpose is to create a diverse community of college-bound scholars who are responsible, ethica, and caring citizens while including a rich cultural experience. The school made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for the last eight years.
“Our students are preparing themselves for a professional career path that includes college,” Jones said. “The students are held to high standards of accountability academically and socially. Our staff members are dedicated and committed to raising the academic performance standards for each student to a higher level. We want to see our students leave here and succeed academically and personally.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Motivation offers AP courses in composition, environmental science and United States history. Other classes at the school include financial literacy, multicultural ethical Issues, African culture and art, multicultural language, journalism, drama and Arabic.
“I’m currently taking two AP courses, U.S. history and environmental science,” said junior Chataki McDonald. “The school does a really good job of offering us a variety of AP courses. I think the classes will help all of us in the long run. I particularly like classes in science, especially biology. Motivation is a really good school. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for me at Motivation and beyond.”
Motivation offers students a variety of programs and activities including chess, debate, student government, embroidery, fashion designing, Arabic drumming, Global Science Program, connections with Cobbs Creek Environmental Center; Wellness Council-HYPE, Steppers Club, International Day, and career and health fair.
“Motivation is a good school because it provides us with a lot of different opportunities,” said senior Dashiyah Green. “I participate in so many things at the school. I was on the basketball team and I participate in student government. Motivation also offers program outside of the school like Upward Bound. That’s another college preparatory program. Without Motivation, I don’t think I would be as prepared as I am to enter college. They prepared me for my future.”
One of the programs that is popular at Motivation is Safe In My Brother’s Arms (SIMBA), which is geared toward the male students at the school. The program teaches them the importance of positive decision- making, self-respect and community awareness. The school also just implemented an anti-bullying program this year.
“I think it really important for students to participate in programs that will help them grow as a person,” said director of SIMBA Justin Haley. “It’s always good for students to excel academically, but we also want to address issues that are affecting them, like self-esteem and bullying. The programs are a good way for us to hear from the students, but it also allows us to help them grow into themselves personally.”
Junior Sulfan Kamara is one of the students who participate in SIMBA. He’s also the president of the organization.
“SIMBA is all about us coming together as men to talk about what’s going on in our lives,” Kamara said. “We support each other and give back to the community. The program has definitely help more grow as a person. I’m more of a leader, than I was prior to being a part of the program.”
For junior Kevin Dandy, going to Motivation is not just about academics, but it’s also about reaching out to the community with the school programs.
“I participate in the UNICEF Club, where we help students and kids in foreign countries with issues like malaria,” Dandy said. “We also have drives and do other things in the community in addition to helping kids in foreign countries. What makes participating in a club like this exciting is that we’re helping people who can’t help themselves. We are making a difference in people’s lives, and going to Motivation gives us the platform to do so.”
Some points of pride at Motivation include over $1.8 million in scholarships and grants, students engaged in college preparation; receipt of a Picasso Project grant, and membership in the Jefferson Award Program.
“This is one of the best schools for academic excellence,” said senior Deontae Barnum. “Everything we learn here is preparing us for our future. The curriculum at times can be tough, but I think it’s all worth it in the end. Nobody wants to go to college unprepared. I’m thankful for the great times that I had at Motivation.”