Learning is a community effort at Gideon

Since becoming a community school in 2016, the Edward Gideon School at 2817 W. Glenwood Ave. has flourished.

— PHOTO: ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER.

In 2016, the Edward Gideon School at 2817 W. Glenwood Ave., was a part of the first cohort of schools to be designated a community school through the Mayor’s Office of Education.

After extensive outreach and feedback collection led by the community school coordinator and assisted by the community school committee, some of the top priorities for Gideon included increase safety in the school and surrounding environment, resources for families including access to health services and extracurricular opportunities for students.

A few years later, Gideon is continuing to flourish under the community school model.

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“I’m going into the end of the fourth year of being at Gideon and we have evolved so much as a school from when I first came until now,” principal Shauneille Taylor said. “We just needed to do a reset as a school and community.

“We tweaked some things and made some adjustments as far as what our purpose in the community as a school was. Throughout this process, we’ve had some challenges, but we really embrace the concept of being a service to our community.

“We’re constantly thinking about what can we do in order to make sure that we’re providing the community with the resources that they need to remove those challenges for our students to come to school every single day.”

Through various partnerships, Gideon provides community resources, academic and emotional support, and educational opportunities for students and their families.

Gideon’s partnership with Philabundance’s KidsBites backpack program, sends every student home with 5 pounds of food once a month. The school has distributed over 15,000 pounds of food to students and families since being a community school. To promote healthy eating, the school offers healthy cooking classes for families and has also planted a garden on the school premises.

Gideon hosts First Mondays, a monthly resource fair open to Gideon families and the community. The fair turns Gideon into a hub of services where community members can expect counseling services through the Joseph J. Peters Institute, housing and benefit access through UESF (Utility Emergency Services Fund), health insurance registration through Pennsylvania Health Access Network, adult education opportunities, and job opportunities through various employers. The school also offers GED programs twice a week.

“In addition to offering a variety of resources for families and the communities, we’ve also put things into place to help our students,” Taylor said. “We have Saturday school for students that are in need of additional support in academics to close the achievement gap. For students who are having challenges throughout the week, the also come to school on Saturdays and they do community service. Our students will have the additional support they need her to excel.

“With any turnaround model for a school it takes three to five years,” she added. “We had our most exciting year last year when we had over 70% of academic growth. Our staff is working extremely hard to prepare our students for the next level. They’re doing an amazing job and I’m so appreciative for everything that they’re doing.”

Since becoming a community school, Gideon has been able to expand its extracurricular programs. Some of the new programs at the school include Girl Scouts, Mural Arts art education program, Drexel Dance Initiative, dance ensemble, STEM program, and a theater club through After-School Activities Partnerships (ASAP).

“While we want our students to learn in and outside of the classroom, we also want them to create memories and have fun,” Taylor said. “Through our extra-curricular programs, students are able to participate in different programs that they are interested in.

“Prior to being a community school, we really didn’t have that many programs or activities to offer our students,” she added. “We’re extremely grateful that we’re now able to offer those opportunities to our students.”

Taylor said that while Gideon has accomplished a lot over the last few years, they’re not resting on their laurels.

“We’ve been able to do some amazing things for our students, families, and community by being a community school, but we’re not stopping here,” Taylor said. “We have to continue to build on what we’ve done. We want to continue to provide the best education and opportunities to our students and families.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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