Producing the next wave of Philadelphia’s college-bound scholars is just one job Parkway Northwest High School has.

The other is churning out the next wave of leaders for peace and social justice, who will be well-rounded and make a difference not only in their community, but the world.

Located at 6200 Crittenden St. Parkway is a college preparatory school with nearly 260 students that combines academics, technology, arts, service and social activism in a peace and social justice centered environment.

“We’re very intentional about being a school for peace and social justice,” said principal Jeffrey MacFarland.

“At the heart of our school’s mission is making sure that we’re being real about what’s going on in our school community, our city and beyond,” he said. “We have very real and transparent conversations here at Parkway, nothing is off limits.”

MacFarland said the school has a specific goal around building a mindset of equity and anti-racism within the school’s faculty and staff.

“We started training last year, which was led by the Center for Black Educator Development, and this year we’re continuing that work through the school district’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” MacFarland said.

“We do not shy away from real conversations even when it involves microaggression, racial microaggressions in our school community,” he added. “It’s very important for us to practice what we preach.”

Throughout the school year, students at Parkway participate in numerous events, meetings, and activities to bring awareness to issues like homeless, gun violence, voter registration, poverty, racism, and the wealth gap.

The school has annual events around Trayvon Martin Tribute Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Day and the International Day of Peace.

Parkway also qualified for the Gold Level School Award for the third year in a row.

The award, which is a part of the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award and is presented by the Pennsylvania Departments of State and Education, is presented to schools where 85% of eligible students are registered to vote.

“All of our school level events are real, purposeful and student centered,” MacFarland said. “Everything that we do is tied to a real social justice issue that we’re trying to find solutions to.”

This year, Parkway started a peace and social justice academy. Led by African American History teacher Sharahn Santana, the academy is for students who have shown an interest in peace and social justice activism. The academy currently has 20 students.

“The students who participate in the academy have deep concerns about gun violence in the city, LGBTQ rights, homelessness and poverty,” Santana said. “They not only want to learn about these issues, but they also want to get out and do something about it. They want to make a difference.”

In the academy, students work with Santana on a weekly basis and produce monthly broadcasts.

“During the monthly broadcast, we highlight some of the issues regarding systemic racism, which is linked to gun violence, poverty and homelessness,” Santana said.

“The students report on these issues to the larger school community and discuss how it impacts Philadelphia and Parkway students specifically,” she said.

Parkway has a 99% graduation rate and the School District of Philadelphia recognized the school for strongest gains in college and career programming.

The school offers a variety of Advanced Placement Courses, honor classes, and a dual enrollment program with Arcadia University.

Parkway counselor Simone Morris helps students and their families navigate post secondary readiness.

“For our seniors, we’re going over the college application process, which includes completing the FASFA and writing college essays,” Morris said.

“Some students are using the Common App so they’re applying directly to schools and making sure they’re aware of the virtual tours that are happening,” she said.

“We have a school coming in almost every week whether it’s a trade school, college or university,” she added. “We’re also about to start working on resumes.”

In addition to preparing students for college and/or careers, Morris coordinates with outside companies and organizations to work with students.

In January, she will also start small group counseling for six weeks.

“I’m working with Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, formerly known as Women Organized Against Rape, to identify students who would be candidates for groups that are focused around self esteem and positive self identity,” Morris said.

“Another focus will be on stress, managing stress and anxiety, especially with the pandemic,” she added. “Those are the two areas that will be the focus of the small groups.”

MacFarland said he wants his students to leave Parkway feeling both supported and challenged.

“We want every student to leave here knowing they’ve been challenged and supported along their road to success,” MacFarland said.

“We want them to see their ability to build trusting relationships with those around them and move forward.”

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