The Second Annual “Music for the Spirit” Gospel Concert raised funds for the non-profit Center in the Park. The older adult facility located in the heart of Germantown brought together a full house to the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church West at 230 W. Coulter St. on Saturday.
Enon member Dawn Morgan Moore performed despite growing health problems. She felt Saturday’s award presentation and concert was for a worthy cause. Having recently celebrated her 50th birthday, Moore was part of the Philadelphia Alumnae Quartet and later did a few solo selections with the other group members as backup singers.
“I am so glad that my church family came out to support CIP,” Moore said. “It’s our honor to be able to give.”
Perhaps no one was more excited about the success of the CIP fundraiser than Lynn Fields Harris of Mount Airy, the executive director. She acknowledged the afternoon’s three honorees. They were Verolga Nix, the Jones Sisters gospel group and state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop.
“CIP was founded by two older women,” Harris said. “Marguerite Riegel and Laura Drake Nicols saw a need for a place that the community’s elders could call their own. (They wanted) a place where they could come together to promote positive aging, stay healthy, independent and avoid isolation. Forty-four years later we are still a gem in Germantown.
“What does CIP do?” she asked. “Think of the words to (the song) ‘If I Can Help Somebody’ because that is what CIP does. It’s what we are committed to do. We help somebody. Thank you for helping us to continue to do that with your generous support.”
The concert featured the sounds of CIP’s Songsters Unlimited that was founded in 1986, the St. Thomas Gospel Choir, Intermezzo Choir Ministry, Joy Unlimited Movement Youth Chorale, and Reginald Troy Coleman. They, along with the Philadelphia Alumnae Quartet and Moore, all received scattered standing ovations throughout the program.
There were many sponsors to make the fundraiser a success. Besides Enon, the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Mount Airy United Fellowship, the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, the Grace Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ were sponsors. In addition, state Rep. Dwight Evans, McClain’s Unisex Salon, Anne’s Wicker Garden, Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home, Canaan Baptist Church pastor Derick Brennan and his wife, and others were supporters as well.
CIP’s next event will be a “Sunday Afternoon of Soulful Jazz” featuring saxophonist Brian Lanier. The event will take place at CIP, 5818 Germantown Ave. in Vernon Park on Sunday, May 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and there will be a light fare provided. For ticket information call (215) 848-7722, ext. 225.
Grover Washington Middle School’s Principal Terry Hargett believes that arts education is important. As an administrator with a cultural and performing arts background, she finds coming to the helm of a school named after the late legendary saxophonist is an ideal fit. Consequently, within the past year that Hargett has been at the school her colleagues, the teachers and even the students have bought into the vision that expressing one’s creative gifts enhances academic prowess.
Just ask 14-year old Natron Moore of Olney. The eighth-grader placed second in the school’s science fair earlier this year. He has already been accepted to be apart of the freshman class at Central High School this fall.
“Being at this school I was able to be recommended to participate in a summer program,” said Moore. “I was part of a team of students who did an educational project with Exxon Mobil. This is just a great school to learn in.”
Seventh-graders Patricia Cannon and Deon Lynch agreed. The 12-year-old Olney residents were quick to point out that being involved in the school’s extracurricular activities, especially arts, stimulates them academically.
“I have been involved in track and being a part of the step team,” said Cannon. “I got to perform at rhythms at the pep rally. The teachers here help you and they want to see you do well, so they help you to understand your work. Since I’ve been here my grades got better and I know want to go to CAPA when I graduate.”
“I love going to music, gym and science classes,” said Lynch, an aspiring astronaut. “By having different programs at the school it has helped me to focus (academically) more. This year I’ve learned about the planets and the geography of the Earth.”
When Romeo Cochran, the teacher resource liaison, pulled out the school’s calendar it revealed the many exciting events that students are engaged in this spring. The eighth-grade students are taking two trips. First, they will be going to Neshaminy Playground and then they will be taking a daylong trek to New York City on Friday, June 1.
The honor students will be recognized with a barbecue, after having attended an honors ski trip earlier this year.
During May, students will be participating in many school initiatives that will be a collaboration with local congregations in Northeast Philadelphia. There are productions throughout the month, including “Grover’s Got Talent.” This will be a special Spring Showcase that will be held May 23, and the students will participate in the Olney Choral Festival on May 24.
Spirit Week will take place from June 4 to 8. This will focus on athletics at the school. There will be field events and sports competitions in the school’s courtyard. It will culminate with a festive dance gala on Friday evening.
The school has its own Arts Zone, supported by PECO, which has adopted the school. When students performed in the “Annie Jr.” production they were able to show off not only their theatrical talents, but also the musical aptitude of the school’s orchestra, band and choir.
“This was a phenomenal show,” said Hargett. “I was amazed at how professional the kids were. I was really proud of them, and all who came were equally amazed.”
Hargett is quick to list the many attributes of students having a well-rounded education that includes music, art, and theater. “Arts education, first of all, teaches students how to focus which is a life skill,” she said.
“Two, it teaches them the importance of self-discipline and delayed gratification. Finally, it teaches them that perseverance pays off. This is what it takes to be successful academically and the performing arts teach all these to the students,” Hargett said.
Thus, many of the students who graduate from Grover Washington attend GAMP (Girard Academic Music Program) or CAPA (High School for the Creative and Performing Arts). Others go on to the top academic magnet high schools like Central, Carver High School of Engineering and Science, or Philadelphia High School for Girls.
Grover Washington also boasts of being a diverse school. Its lobby reflects this, as there is a “snowflake” mathematical model featuring globes. The display has traveled around to other schools and venues throughout the city.
The continents and countries represent the heritage of the school’s population. While 60 percent of the 735 students are from the African Diaspora — African Americans, Caribbean Americans and native Africans — about 20 percent are of Asian descent and another 20 percent are Latino, according to Hargett.
Yet another thing that is unique about Grover Washington is that many of the administrators and staff either have roots in, or still reside in, the Lower Northeast neighborhood. Hargett herself lives within walking distance of the school.
“I think living in the neighborhood gives me a special connection to the students,” said Hargett, admitting she often runs into students and their parents in the supermarket or gas station. “I see the kids all the time.
“They know that I understand the world they live in because I, too, am part of their community. Just as how this school integrates our special education and ESL children into the other classrooms, I think being part of the neighborhood makes the school environment more inclusive,” she said.
Over the next year the school will be involved in raising additional donations to bring the auditorium up to a professional level. Hargett, who was principal of Audenreid High School, which has a state-of-the-art stage, wants Grover Washington to have the same. Because it is the city’s only comprehensive middle school with a focus on the performing arts, she feels this is imperative.
“With the right sound and lights, it will bring out the best in the students,” Hargett said. “When I was in a building that had this it made a difference. You can see the talents of the children better and the children are more enthusiastic. I would like to also add a dance component, because these students are so talented and I want to give them more support.”
There’s good news for parents who want their children to go to a high-performing Philadelphia School District school. There will be a major expansion in 19 district-managed stellar schools, adding 2,272 seats. According to the Tuesday, April 17 announcement, this means that more local students will be able to be admitted to these schools during the 2012–2013 academic year.
This announcement represents one of a set of steps the school district has taken to continue to increase the number of students in high-quality schools. Consequently, there will be 1,802 additional seats in 11 high schools. There will also be 470 more seats available in six elementary schools as well as in two middle schools.
Earlier this year the school district announced that four schools had been selected for the Renaissance Schools match process. This would shift approximately 3,000 more seats to high-performing turnaround teams. The school district will continue to invest in the growth of these schools while closing or restructuring low-performing schools, according to the April 17 announcement.
Of the 11 high schools, nine are special admissions schools. Two are citywide admissions. The high schools will follow their regular admission criteria to select and enroll new students.
The additional elementary school seats will be made available through the school district’s “No Child Left Behind” school choice program. This initiative gives parents of children attending schools in a school improvement status the option to apply to transfer their children to a school that has not been identified as needing improvement.
For more information about the expansion program call (215) 400-4000. The schools are listed online at https://webapps.philasd.org/news/display/916.
April is National Poetry Month. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than the students at the Grover Washington Middle School. The energy is high in the English classroom of teacher Sheila General. Students are making posters to show off their Japanese-style “haiku” poetry and are eager to share what they have written.
Mark Palmer reads “Cool Star” before his classmate Deminia Marin recites “Kittens.” The Asian poetry style involves writing three lines of verse with five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second line, and a final line of five more syllables. The students’ topics stray from the traditional nature theme, though some do attempt to follow it.
“Traditionally during this month many classes will focus on the usual lyrical poetry and limericks,” said General, who has been a Philadelphia School District teacher for 25 years and has been teaching at Grover Washington since its opening 12 years ago.
“I wanted to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, which is April, but also the fact that May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Since we have many different heritages in this school, I thought using haikus was a way to celebrate poetry this month and then continue the Asian theme into next month,” General said.
So Taquisha Mitchell said her haiku dealt with “Cheetahs” because of her fascination with the larger cats, while Kalid Fisher chose “Wilderness.” Christian Jones and Rahmir Dyson created a collaborative two-verse haiku entitled “Tigers,” since they initially wrote about the same animal, while Darman Johnson wanted his poem to focus on the theme of nature in “March.”
As for General, she was pleased with results of the poetry. The children were mounting their poetry onto posterboards. Their work will line the school’s corridor right alongside interesting themed walls that feature everyone from poet Maya Angelou to activist Cesar Chavez. “The children really brought their different backgrounds to this and I am pleased with the results,” General said.
One-on-one laptop connection and arts programs that range digital video to analytical engineering is what makes the Science Leadership Academy High School unique. Located at 55 N. 22nd St. in the heart of Center City, the school boasts of a commitment to inquiry-based science. At the helm of the college preparatory school is Philadelphia native Chris Lehman.
For Lehman, the founder of SLA, this is a positive learning and student-centered environment. He said that the 25 teachers work collaboratively to ensure that its population of 486 students does well. This coming June they will graduate virtually the entire senior class of 120 students.
“We have a holistic environment here,” said Lehman. “Students here come from every zip code in the city. We have four national certified teachers and all the teachers have an average of nine years of experience.”
Lehman brings to the school a decade of teaching English and technology in New York City. It was in 2006 he relocated back to the Fairmount section and decided to open the school in partnership with the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Having this initial relationship fostered the school’s commitment to science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship.
“We have an incredible environment based on five core values,” Lehman said. “We have a culture here that encourages learning. Five years ago we were one of the first all Apple schools. We truly create education opportunities that are redefining how education is delivered.”
To this end Lehman is particularly proud of the fact that SLA welcomes both students who excel academically and those who show unusual promise. Every December those interested in entering the school’s freshman class can apply. Last November there were 900 applicants for 125 slots.
Though the school was selective in choosing the members of the next entering class, it was not an exclusive process insisted the principal. “We really want a holistic voice, so the parents are not involved in our selection process of our students. They are just not part of the process because our focus is on the kids,” Lehman said.
The student-centered environment continues even after the students became SLA students. They have longer classroom periods to allow for more laboratory work in science classes. They also have performance-based learning class lessons where upper grade students are even allowed to have flexible schedules.
Consequently, the school also boasts of a high college admission rate. Lehman credits this to the students being allowed to have flexible opportunities. They can choose dual enrollment programs in area universities and career development internships in laboratory and business settings. Of course, the Franklin Institute provides some of the internships.
“There is always something going on for the students,” said Lehman. “We are always involved in science fairs. We were part of the National Educon. We have all types of programming. We teach our students to be ready for the future.”