Philly students challenge the public at chess
After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP) hosted its “Chess in the Summer” event on July 26 at the Shops at Liberty Place Atrium, 1625 Chestnut St. Participants of the Philadelphia Youth Chess Challenge played informally with the Center City lunch crowd. Chess sets were provided.
Senior graduates celebrate accomplishments at Ben Franklin
In the auditorium of Ben Franklin High School, 550 North Broad St., students received their high school diplomas on July 27. These students completed the requirements to graduate through the District’s 2012 Senior Center summer program. Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon spoke at the commencement, and South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney emceed.
Science sessions at the library
Philadelphia students entering second- through sixth-grade participated in GlaxoSmithKline’s “Science in the Summer” program. This year, students studied oceanography. Certified instructors taught the free course. In partnership with the Franklin Institute, the two-day sessions ran in 26 libraries throughout the city. Since 1986, GSK has provided this science enrichment course to elementary students in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, reaching more than 100,000 students. There are also programs in North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore area.
WorkReady Summer Expo showcased youth talent
More than 400 youth participated in the WorkReady Summer Exposition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center August 9. Teens shared how their work experiences impacted their summer and their lives. For six weeks, the youth completed their work-based learning projects and portfolios that demonstrated their mastery of 21st century skills. Each project and portfolio was presented in one of eight categories: 21st Century high-tech careers and career exploration, The arts, culture and beautification of our communities, business and entrepreneurship in the global economy, civic engagement and social action, education and mentoring, health and wellness, internship portfolios, saving the environment and going green.
Philadelphia Student Leadership Conference
Students representing over 25 Philadelphia schools and several community organizations attended a free leadership conference at the Community College of Philadelphia on July 25. The conference featured 13 leadership workshops and speeches by three distinguished guests: state Rep. James Roebuck, former ’76er Ollie Johnson, and executive director of the Philadelphia Youth Commission Jamira Burley. The conference was hosted by the Student Leader Union, a completely youth-run, non-profit organization that gives leadership training and opportunities to middle school and high school students.
Kindergarten mixer at Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum welcomed almost 1,400 people including close to 500 future kindergartners and their families to celebrate the beginning of their journey into school on August 4. During the event, guests were able to explore the museum, make art in the program room, interact with real kindergarten teachers and watch the Pinky Prepares for Kindergarten show in the Please Touch Playhouse. Guests also had the opportunity to connect with local resources like the Free Library of Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Ed Snyder Youth Hockey Foundation. The event culminated with a kindergarten-themed pep rally in Hamilton Hall. Finally each kindergartener received a backpack filled with books and school supplies.
The Botswana — University of Pennsylvania Partnership can trace its roots back 11 years to a collaboration of medical professionals recruited to help stem the tide of AIDS infections in that southern African country.
Over time, however, this health-care partnership expanded to include non-clinical summer internships for students from other University of Pennsylvania schools.
This past summer, 10 Penn graduate and undergraduate students completed 10-week internships at organizations in and around Gaborone, the capital: at a preschool day-care center, an after-school program and orphanage, a human-rights group and a governmental agency as well as at private businesses marketing handmade baskets and quilts.
Afreina Noor, a Fulbright scholar studying for her master’s degree in public administration at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, and Christian Husby, a student in the Graduate School of Education, were assigned to the Kamogelo Daycare Centre.
Each weekday, the pair traveled by combi, or small van, to Kamogelo, which cares for some 90 children ages 2-6 in the village of Mogoditshane, about 20 kilometers from Gaborone.
“The families are very poor, and many parents are suffering with HIV/AIDS,” Noor said. “The center gives the children a safe and healthy environment — a bit more normal life — five days a week.”
Noor said the children are taught the alphabet, counting, colors, rhymes, art and reading in English. They also have breakfast and lunch, which are cooked on the premises and made with vegetables from the center’s garden.
While there, Noor compiled an annual report for the center to submit to potential funders and helped to redesign its brochure and Web site, including posting new video.
Husby taught in the classroom and worked with the local teachers. He also helped with administrative work and daily tasks such as cleaning the rooms.
Together, they also held a teacher-training session. Noor taught them how to use Excel and to create and save Word documents.
“They were happy to learn Excel to track the children’s heights and weights,” Noor said. “Previously, they had to hand-write the reports. Now, they use a template.”
Husby made budget sheets and taught Sister Margaret, Kamogelo’s director, how to use them, saving her hours of manual calculations.
“She was thrilled,” Noor said.
For Noor, it was a sort of homecoming. A native of Pakistan, she lived in Botswana until she was 7 years old, when her father died and her mother moved the family back to Islamabad.
“I hadn’t been back [to Botswana] in all those years until now,” she said. “I was able to visit my father’s grave.”
Another intern, Wharton sophomore Meghan Bethel, worked at Botswanacraft Marketing. Her experience included a 16-hour bus trip to the Etsha villages to see first hand how the renowned Botswana baskets are made.
“The baskets are extraordinary, and it takes true skill and craftsmanship to produce such high quality,” she wrote in her internship report.
Noor and Bethel used their personal networks to help their internship sites financially. Noor sought donations for field trips and supplies for the children at Kamogelo, and Bethel to create new markets for the baskets.
Concerned about the weavers’ wages and living conditions, Bethel used family connections at the United Nations in an effort to get the Etsha Weavers Group endorsed by UNESCO.
“This endorsement would make fundraising for the group easier,” she said, “and would quell some of the hesitations that foreign companies have with doing business with an African-based business.”
A Bahamian, Bethel said she was often mistaken for a Motswana — a native of Botswana — and people would approach her speaking rapidly in Setswana, the native language.
SAS junior Aran Park was one of two interns who worked at SOS Children’s Villages orphanage. Besides working with the children in their classrooms, she and fellow Penn student Aliza Stone transformed an unused building into a library, cleaning the building of dirt and debris before organizing and shelving the books.
Muchi “Molly” He, interned at Botswana’s Competition Authority, which, as its name suggests, monitors and investigates market and business practices to ensure fair competition. As part of her experience, she accompanied the analysts on site visits, but her most recent project, in tandem with SAS senior and fellow intern Guanyuan Chung, involved categorizing industry sectors for the Botswana economy.
“We were told this would be a long-term strategy plan,” she wrote in a report. “It was exciting to know that what we were working on would have lasting impact for an entire country.”
It wasn’t all work, though. The interns lived together on the University of Botswana campus with UB student mentors who helped them to learn their way around Gaborone and nearby Phakalane.
The mentors also helped them raise their awareness of cultural nuances and master key Setswana words and phrases. They all dined together most evenings, either taking turns making dinner or going out for fast food or restaurants for special occasions. Most students noted the difference in the pace of life there.
With its current mission — “Sharing the expertise of a world-class university with our partners in Botswana to build capacity and excellence in clinical care, education and research” — the Botswana-UPenn Partnership remains true to its origins. Penn staff work to strengthen medical education at the University of Botswana School of Medicine, provide technical advisors for clinical care and develop research collaborations. The BUP also provides a global health experience for students from Penn’s schools of Dental Medicine, Medicine and Nursing through clinical rotations.
Debate over property taxes seems likely to dominate City Council’s fall session, which opened Thursday with two new proposals that center on taxes – one would increase the penalties for some delinquent taxpayers, and the second would alter the city’s tax abatement policy.
Both proposals were made as Council gears up for a major property tax reform initiative called the Actual Value Initiative, which would shift the basis of the property tax from a fractional value to full market value.
Under the first proposal, introduced by Council President Darrell Clarke, penalties for delinquent property taxpayers who owe more than $20,000 in back taxes would double.
“We believe that the more you owe, the higher the penalties should be,” Clarke said, noting that the city is allowed to increase penalties under the state constitution.
“We cannot continue to have conversations about increasing real estate taxes when on paper we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected taxes,” he said. “So we’re going to be very aggressive on that matter.”
The second proposal, introduced by Councilman W. Wilson Goode, would change the way the city’s tax abatement policy works, replacing the current policy, which completely exempts certain properties for 10 years, to one based on a graduated scale.
Under Goode’s proposal, the abatement would go from 100 percent in its first year and then decline in 20 percent increments until it hit zero over a term of five years rather than 10.
“Most of the direct beneficiaries of 10-year residential abatements are private developers, investors and higher-income residents,” Goode said. “In other words, it’s generally a tax break for the few, the new, and the well-to-do.”
The city’s 10-year tax abatement program started in 1997, and was expanded in 2000 and again in 2003. It now includes new construction and improvements to residential and rental construction.
In other news, Council also overturned a mayoral veto that would have prevented Finnegan’s Wake in Northern Liberties from adding a balcony.
Mark Squilla, the councilman who represents the area, said the vote was largely to reinforce councilmanic prerogative.
“As a district council person, you usually feel that your dealings within the community and your business within the district are sort of in a way up to the councilperson and not the mayor,” he said.
In explaining his veto, Nutter said Council should not ignore the “opposition of the community resident association that represents the neighborhood most affected by the proposal.”
John Bernard Peters was a humanitarian who had a passion for helping others.
He died Aug. 13, 2012 at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital. He was 82.
He was born to April 14, 1930 to Raleigh J. Peters, Sr. and Viola Holmes Peters in Philadelphia. He was the youngest of three children. He was baptized at Holy Trinity Baptist Church at a young age.
Affectionately known as “Nardsy, “Bernie,” or “Mr. P,” Peters was educated in the Philadelphia school system. He opted to postpone the completion of his high school education to care and provide for his ill mother. At age 70, he successfully passed the exams and obtained his GED.
In 1950, he married Priscilla Johnson and from this union three daughters were born.
In understanding the dynamics for a successful family life, Peters set the bar high for himself. He had exceptional work ethics. He was employed in the dairy industry, working at Sealtest and Breyers for 41 years, never missing a day. He also worked on weekends for El’s Market. Upon retiring from the dairy industry, he began a second career with the School District of Philadelphia at the Pepper Middle School where he remained for 10 years.
He called on the elders in the family to let them know they were not forgotten and kept in touch with many friends from the old neighborhood. He volunteered at all the functions and activities in which his daughters participated. He could be found at church functions, YMCA of West Philadelphia dances and skating parties. He was also involved in the YMCA’s Buddy System and Big Brothers/Big Sisters where he mentored young boys from single parent households, encouraging them to be the best that they can be in life.
As an avid boxing fan and a former boxer, Peters taught boxing for fitness to YMCA members and encouraged them to learn the proper techniques used in this sport. He volunteered his time to school the boxing students about life, school, working hard, and planning for a future and success. Parents often called on him to advise and support the boxing students whenever there was a need.
Peters was a consummate dresser and dancer who would take the floor at all affairs to show his bopping and line dance skills.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Raleigh J. Peters, Jr. and Gerald W. Peters.
Peters is survived by his daughters, Judith, Donna and Priscilla; granddaughter, Heather; cousin, Bernice Mays; childhood friend, Julian Ervin; brother-in-law, Gregory Rocker, special friend, Alice Brown and other relatives and friends.
A memorial service will be held Sept.16 at the YMCA of West Philadelphia, 5120 Chestnut Street.
On the day the state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about the state’s controversial new voter ID law, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams is scheduled to host a Voter ID Education and Action Rally to help voters take the necessary steps to ensure that their vote counts this November.
“While we continue to fight this confusing, unnecessary and utterly disgraceful new law, it’s crucial that voters are made aware of their rights so that they are ready for Election Day,” Williams said. “Freedom-loving Americans cherish the vote, a right for which generations have died to secure. That’s why we’re set to answer questions, offer resources and ensure that as many people as possible are prepared and able to protect and exercise their vote this fall.”
The rally will take place on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m. at Kingsessing Recreation Center, located at 50th Street and Kingsessing Avenue in Philadelphia.
There will be representatives from various civic organizations available to talk to participants about the law, opportunities to volunteer for voter outreach, entertainment and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while supplies last.
The new law will now force voters to present specific forms of photo ID when they cast their ballots, starting with this November’s election.
Several organizations have fought in Commonwealth Court to strike down the law, arguing that the nation’s most restrictive measure to date could disenfranchise some 750,000 previously valid voters. Despite these and other facts, the court upheld it.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and is expected to begin proceedings on Sept. 13.
Williams, Democratic whip and Democratic chair of the state government committee, and his Senate Democratic colleagues voted against the voter ID legislation earlier this year.
They contend that it would adversely impact select members of the voting population — namely people of color, seniors, women and youthful voters. Video that surfaced of state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai bragging that the law would allow Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania further bolstered claims that voter ID was designed to suppress votes, not reduce fraud, which to date has been reported as minimal, if at all.
Last week, Williams and his colleagues filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court in support of efforts to stop the law from being implemented.