Category Archives: Education

Green and Shusterman announce loan forgiveness legislation for health workers

PHILADELPHIA, April 8 – State Reps. Roni Green, D-Phila., and Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, announced the introduction of legislation to provide Pennsylvania health workers with student loan forgiveness. The loan forgiveness program would reward nurses and employees of personal care and assisted living facilities who have been forced on the front lines of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“Through a loan forgiveness program, we can reward and support these front-line personnel working around the clock, while also encouraging more people to enter the caring professions,” Green said.

Average monthly student loan payments are $196 for nurses with an associate’s degree and $234 for those with a bachelor’s. Nurses with a master’s degree face monthly bills of $544, on average. Providing loan forgiveness for nurses would bring much needed financial relief to ensure the well-being and safety of those who work so hard to safeguard the health of Pennsylvanians.

The measure would also demonstrate that the commonwealth values and appreciates the contributions nurses and health workers make caring for the most vulnerable and working at the forefront of the difficult and growing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nurses and personal care workers rarely get the recognition they deserve for the vital work they do during normal times, making it more important than ever that we say thank you to them for being the everyday heroes we need,” Shusterman said.

The Pennsylvania Health Department continues to offer regular updates on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. For the latest on the number of cases, plus information on prevention and preparation, residents should visit


State Rep. Roni Green

State Rep. Melissa Shusterman

Kids Stuck at Home Write Stories, Theater Group Brings Them to Life Online

PHILADELPHIA – StoryUP!, the interactive children’s theater company, has launched the Stories at Home project, inviting kids stuck at home to use that time to write a story.

The company typically offers live interactive performances where children create and write their own original stories, then watch as they are performed on the spot by the professional improv troupe. In response to social distancing, StoryUP! is still looking for stories from kids – this time, to inspire short funny videos that individual team members make in their homes and post online.

StoryUP! Founder and Executive Director Martha Cooney hopes the project will create a feedback loop, where kids seeing their work brought to life by the performers – who might be using household objects as props, singing, or using puppets  – are inspired to write and create further. “Making up stories is something kids of all ages can do, and there are so many different ways to dive into it,” says Cooney. “Younger children can dictate a story and really get absorbed in the pretend play of it. Older kids might write a story and be inspired to make art to go along with it or film their own video. Coming up with stories and acting them out together is a fun activity families can do – and it doesn’t involve a screen.”

“Thank you for this wonderful idea, we had fun,” said parent Megan McAleer, whose five-year-old daughter Brenyah’s story was featured. She noted that the story-writing activity inspired them further: “Thank you for the hour of imagination play that creating this story sparked!”

Parent Jen Pope, whose son Jack wrote a story entitled The Silly Moose, shared, “He loved it! He really cracked up at his own jokes.” Another parent, Lindsay Docherty Rachlin, wrote in a Facebook post, “This made my 4 year old laugh so hard, he farted.”

Stories are welcome from children of all ages, who can use the story sheet, free write or draw a story picture with a description. All stories should be sent to for submission. Illustrations and photos of the author are welcome. StoryUP! will pick as many stories as they can to perform, and will share the results on their Facebook page @storyupphilly.

ABOUT STORY UP!  StoryUP! engages children and adults with interactive, improvised performances based on the imagined and true stories of our audience collaborators. Through performances, workshops and teacher trainings, StoryUP! professional artists and teachers inspire and motivate participants to tell, write and dramatize the stories within. StoryUP! creates a joyful, collaborative space to enhance literacy, strengthen community, and celebrate the healing power of laughter through storytelling.

Media Contact
Martha Cooney



Eastern State Penitentiary to Host Online Conversation About COVID-19 and Criminal Justice System

Philadelphia, PA (April 1, 2020) – Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site will host a special online installment of its program The Searchlight Series this month. On Tuesday, April 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00p.m., two nationally renowned experts will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated populations, correctional staff, and the criminal justice system. The conversation, facilitated by Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation Sean Kelley, will be streamed live on Eastern State Penitentiary’s Facebook.

The quickly moving novel coronavirus has left people incarcerated in United States jails, prisons, and detention centers at severe risk. Featured speakers Andrew Cohen and Dr. Gregg Gonsalves
will discuss how the nation’s correctional systems are currently responding to this public health crisis and share their thoughts regarding what additional measures could be taken to further protect those living and working in these facilities.

For more information the public should visit

About the Speakers:

Andrew Cohen is senior editor at The Marshall Project. A former attorney, he is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former contributing editor at The Atlantic.

Dr. Gregg Gonsalves is an Assistant Professor in the Department of the Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale School of Public Health and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Yale Law School. For
close to 30 years, he has been an AIDS activist. He is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

About The Searchlight Series:
Eastern State Penitentiary partners with nationally recognized journalists, policy experts, and educators to present an ongoing discussion series about crime, justice, and the American prison system. The Searchlight Series discussions take place the first Tuesday of every month, free and open to the public. No
reservations required.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy
of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s
founding through to the present day, within the longabandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and
expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a
haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard
towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours seven days a week, year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic
Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

Ellen Feist
Marketing & Communications Strategist
(215) 264-2559


A Summer of Youth Opportunity in Parkside and Beyond

by Jasmine Bullock

As summer approaches and the weather gets warmer, youth have many options to occupy their time and embark on new experiences. From WesGold Fellows program to Centennial Parkside CDC’s Youth Advisory Council, the options are limitless.

One signature summer program in the area is the WesGold Fellows sponsored by West Philadelphia Financial Services. Over the last 12 years, the WesGold Fellows program has serviced youth in the area with paid opportunities to learn about finance, entrepreneurship, and real estate.

The summer of 2020 will bring some dramatic changes to the WesGold Fellows program. For the first time in its twelve-year history, the program has a full-time program director, Samantha Lyons. Over the last ten months, Samantha has worked diligently
to expand the program. This summer, the WesGold Fellows will double in capacity, accepting 30 students in the eight-week program.

Using a student recruiter who is also an alumnus of the program, Fellows, typically rising 10th and 11th graders, will be recruited from high schools from all over the city but there will be an emphasis on local schools such as Overbrook High School and Mastery
Charter School. They will also accept students referred by local community organizations such as the PEACE organization.

During programming, WesGold Fellows are emerged in extensive workshops for 8 weeks. Each week, the fellows engage in workshops that meet the four focus areas of the program, guest speakers, trips out of state and college visits and student presentations.

Centennial Parkside CDC is also working to begin a Youth Advisory Council that will launch in late March. The Youth Advisory Council will provide a safe space for 12 of Parkside’s youth to convene to
learn about leadership and to engage with the Board of Directors to offer suggestions to enhance the neighborhood. Young people will receive a stipend to participate in leadership, literacy and health and
wellness workshops.

As the program continues to grow, youth will become an integral part of the community, sharing their thoughts and ideas on how to improve living in the Parkside area. Orientation for the Youth
Advisory Council will be on March 25, 2020.

Both WesGold Fellows and the Youth Advisory Council have incentives for young people. Centennial Parkside CDC is offering stipends for attendance and participation in their bi-weekly
workshops. The WesGold Fellows will open savings accounts and will have the opportunity to have their savings matched up to $2000.00.

The West Park Cultural Center which is headquartered in Parkside prides itself on offering quality unique youth programming. During the academic year, the WestPark Cultural Center offers teen girls a program called danceLogic. This program combines dance and computer programming to encourage young ladies to become interested in computer science while embracing the arts.

While there will be no dance class during the summer, current participants of danceLogic will continue their coding classes. DanceLogic will recruit for a new class in the fall.

The Philadelphia Zoo offers the Zoo Crew. This youth force works as
volunteers within the zoo with the hopes of being accepted into the second phase of the program Zoo Crew2. New Zoo Crew members engage with guests and teach about how to save wildlife. Zoo Crew 2 members are conservation ambassadors and gain invaluable experiences caring for animals and embarking on both local and international field trips to learn about professions in animal
care and conservation of wildlife. Applications for Zoo crew will be accepted March 1st through May 15th

As summer quickly approaches, youth have several options to stay busy and immersed in the community. To find more information on any of the programs contact:
Centennial Parkside CDC YAC: Tashia Rayon, Program Coordinator

WesGold Fellows: Samantha Lyons, Program Director


Zoo Crew:

New Please Touch Museum Exhibit Gives Visitors “The Centennial Experience of 1876”


by Jim Brown

What if today’s youth could go back in time to
experience firsthand the American Centennial period of the
1870’s AND see how this crucial historical period continues
to impact their lives? By thinking ‘outside the box’, the
Please Touch Museum has risen to the challenge and created
or simulated such an experience with its novel new exhibit
(CENTENNIAL INNOVATIONS) on the very site of the
first Parks Commission or World’s Fair which was held in
Philadelphia in 1876 with Morton McMichael as its first
Parks Commissioner. The elementary school which bears his
name is located in the nearby Mantua section of West

Recently this newspaper interviewed the Please Touch
Museum’s CEO Trish Wellenbach about the passion,
purpose, and vision behind its “New Centennial” Exhibit
which is due to open next month (April 2020). She
expressed her strong interest in and appreciation of this
crucial period of American history. Wellenbach noted in
particular the outreach initiatives that are specifically
directed towards children.

They reflect the museum’s mission statement that reads in
part “We Build Brains”….by developing learning through
play. She emphasized that “we have a half million
(500,000) visits a year, and of that visitorship about a quarter
of the visitors come through our commitment that children
will have access to a museum experience.

So there are 110.000 children who come for free or the $2.00
admission on every Wednesday of the month”. Wellenbach
also noted that the museum will add three free community
days this year that will be linked to a variety of programs and
initiatives that the Please Touch Museum is promoting. The
upcoming CENTENNIAL INNOVATIONS exhibit seeks to
greatly expand on Please Touch Museum programs that
teach our children “ how the past connects to and informs us
about the future”.

““We’ve been working on this exhibit for about four (4) years,” explained an enthusiastic Wellenbach. “We spent an entire year doing research and working with focus groups and general visitors, educators, Parkside community members and they’ve all had a
voice on how this exhibit came together and we’ve continued to engage those communities in the process along the way.”

“This was part of the museum that was woefully underused and we wanted to really bring it to life,” explained CEO Wellenbach. “

The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was held in Philadelphia and called the World’s Fair. It lasted from May 10th through November 10th to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the signing of the
Declaration of Independence.

This building was previously called Memorial Hall and it was designed by Herman J. Schwarzmann. Philadelphia was a very popular destination site for tourists from around the country and the world.

It was officially named International Exhibition of Arts Manufactures, and Products of the Soil & Mine. It attracted at least 10 million visitors from 35 countries with about 14,420 businesses
participating in the fair. Important inventions of this time period included the typewriter, sewing machine, and the telephone.

“I’m confident that we’re going to get a wonderful reception when this exhibit opens on Friday, April 3, 2020 at 10:00 am.,” said CEO Wellenbach. “I think it has tremendous potential for the museum,
for children and for the Parkside community. And we hope that people will come and experience the exhibit.”

The space in the basement of The Please Touch Museum where the Centennial Innovations Exhibit was created is 5,000 square feet of gallery and museum officials thought long and hard about how to bring that underused space to life and use it in the most effective and creative way possible.

Spending $1.75 million dollars on this transformation of the basement gallery space and completing the project on time and on budget was a great accomplishment for the museum and its staff who are now ready to show it off to the community.

CEO Trish Wellenbach was visibly excited when discussing the various things that visitors can be expected to see and experience.

“And now that this space (The new Centennial Innovations Exhibit) has been completed, it will be enriching and add to the museum’s appeal to our neighbors of the Parkside community,” said CEO Wellenbach. “And we hope to engage students up to fourth
(4th) grade. There will be a series of exhibits, elements and levels of engagement with  children and families.”

“I think we’re going to have about 450,000 to 600,000 visitors a year,” adds CEO Wellenbach. “It is kind of our core number. But, the genesis of the exhibit is not to just increase visitorship; it’s really to increase engagement or the quality of the visitor experience.”

Getting families from the community of Parkside, other areas of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties to enjoy a day or weekend on the west side of Fairmount Park at 4231 Avenue of the Republic across from 42nd & Parkside Avenue will be the one of
the measures of the judging success of this new exhibit.

This new exhibit is a great opportunity to highlight another hidden treasure found only in Parkside. We hope this exhibit will be worth all the hard work Wellenbach and her staff have committed to bring this exhibit to our community.

Many African-Americans visiting the museum and those in the Parkside community have wondered and pondered the question of how diverse the exhibit will be and how the black experience during this post-slavery time period will be reflected in the exhibit.

“This is not a one and done for us,” says CEO Wellenbach. “Since I came here in 2015, we have been focusing on being a mirror to the city where we reside and the communities that we welcome everyday. Every child that walks in here, gets to see their family, their personal experiences reflected. And it is here and we seek to foster inclusion.”

“We have a tremendous amount of visitorship that represents lots of diversity, culturally, religiously, ethnically and socially,” declared CEO Wellenbach. “Even from the perspective of physical special needs and handicapped persons. And I think that this exhibit will continue to build on to the good work that we have done”.

There will be African-Americans and their contributions as part of the Centennial Innovations Exhibit as CEO Wellenbach has shown in one of the four models displayed during our interview on the exhibit. Abolitionist Frederick Douglas was said to have attended the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 but was not allowed to speak. Other contributions from prominent black contributors are Madam C.J. Walker, George Washington Carver, sculptor Edmonia Lewis and Mae Jemison.

The following are some basic historical facts about The Please Touch
Museum and the Memorial Hall :

The Please Touch Museum originally was created in 1976 and was part of the Natural Academy of the Science. Then it was moved to 21st Street near Cherry Street in 1983. And finally, it was moved to the Memorial Hall site in 2008.

Memorial Hall subsequently housed the Pennsylvania Museum of Industrial Arts (now called the Philadelphia Museum of Arts) and the building is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, A National Historic Landmark and part of the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

The neighborhood houses key entertainment and educational venues like Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, The Mann Music Center, The West Park Arts Festival, and the Philadelphia Zoo.


Saturday, April 4, 2020 and Sunday, April 5, 2020

Presented by The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 13, 2020) – The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival returns to Philadelphia on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, 2020, making this a prime destination weekend to kick off the spring travel season. The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) hosts the annual family-friendly festival to celebrate Japanese culture. This year, both days will feature Taiko drummers (Tamagawa University Taiko and Dance Troupe from Japan performing on Sunday and KyoDaiko from Philadelphia performing on Saturday), traditional musical performances, martial arts demonstrations, the Prettiest Pet in Pink parade, cosplay fashion shows, as well as crafts and games like origami and shogi. Attendees will also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Cherry Blossom trees planted in Fairmount Park.

Kim Andrews, Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, said, “We are thrilled to be a part of what makes Philadelphia so special. As an organization that celebrates mutual understanding, curiosity, and collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia, we recognize the value of embracing a global perspective. We are expecting to draw a huge number of attendees this year with the new weekend format and hope that we’ll be more attractive now to out of town attendees.”

“VISIT PHILADELPHIA has long invited all travelers to discover and appreciate our region’s great diversity,” said Jeff Guaracino, president and CEO, VISIT PHILADELPHIA®. “The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival is one of many awesome ways they can do just that. We are an inclusive and welcoming region and look forward to welcoming the thousands of festival attendees this spring and diverse travelers throughout the year.”

Staying for the weekend allows attendees to not only enjoy the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, but also the Japanese restaurants in Philadelphia including Hiroki in Fishtown, Sakana in Queen Village, Madame Saito’s Le Champignon De Tokio in Headhouse Square and Morimoto in Center City. There are now ramen restaurants such as Hiro Ramen in Center City and Nom Nom Ramen which has a few locations. And for some karaoke fun, there is always Yakitori Boy.

In its ongoing effort to welcome tourists to the city, Visit Philadelphia has created attractive overnight packages that include lodging, activities, parking, and other amenities that will enhance the experience of visitors in town for the Cherry Blossom Festival. For more information on these packages, visit

Tamagawa University’s Taiko Troupe from Tokyo will return on Saturday, April 4th to fill Fairmount Park with thundering drums and intricate dances while Philadelphia’s own Kyo Daiko will perform on Sunday. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to make origami, enjoy the Subaru Sushi Samurai of the Year Competition, watch martial arts demonstrations, play Japanese games like go and shogi, experience Japanese fashion and food, and observe demonstrations of Ikebana, Japan’s traditional flower arranging. Other family activities include Japanese-themed arts & crafts, shopping and more. Tours of Shofuso, the Japanese House and Garden, will be included with the admission ticket. For more information, visit

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival will be a highlight of JapanPhilly2020. Launching in March 2020, JapanPhilly2020 is an initiative by JASGP that connects Philadelphia and Japan with a year of Japanese art, business, and cultural events. In addition to the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, JapanPhilly2020 will host two international conferences in partnership with Japanese cultural organizations, bringing a Japanese audience to Philadelphia. The John Manjiro Commemorative Center for International Exchange (CIE) Grassroots Summit, a citizen’s exchange program between Japan and the United States, will celebrate its 30th year in Philadelphia. The Grassroots Summit will include Philadelphia-area home stays, an opening ceremony at the Franklin Institute, and a closing ceremony at the Independence Seaport Museum. The National Association of Japan America Societies (NAJAS) annual conference will also take place in Philadelphia. JASGP is developing a year-long series of programs, designed to engage the Greater Philadelphia region. For more information about JapanPhilly2020, visit

Three varieties of sakura, or Cherry Blossom trees, are prominently featured in Philadelphia: Yoshino, Higan, and Kwanzan. They provide the inspiration for the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival. In 1926, the Japanese Government donated 1,600 Cherry Blossom trees to Philadelphia as a gift to recognize 150 years of American independence. Since 1998, JASGP has planted more than 1,000 additional trees around the city of Philadelphia.

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is a project of the JASGP with support from Subaru of America, Inc as its title sponsor. JASGP inspires mutual curiosity, understanding, and respect between Japan and Philadelphia, and the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival builds on this mission by fostering the Japanese tradition of blossom-viewing and planting and maintaining cherry trees. Digital photos and additional information on cherry tree viewing, cherry blossom traditions in Japan, and the work of the JASGP are available at Follow @phillysakura on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Wendi Schweiger

PR Manager                                                                                                              Feldscher Horwitz Public Relations                                                                        3 Eves Drive, Suite 305                                                                                    Marlton, NJ 08053                                                                                                    215-627-0801 ext. 103                                                                                          85

About The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia:

The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia is a private nonprofit organization that has brought Philadelphia and Japan closer together for more than 25 years through art, business and culture. JASGP operates Shofuso, produces the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival and presents the US-Japan Business and Public Policy Series, as well as other arts, business, culture and educational programs for all ages. For more information, visit

About Shofuso:

Shofuso is a 17th-century-style Japanese house and garden located in West Fairmount Park. Shofuso is open for to the public March 21 through  November 1, Wednesdays through Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Adult admission is $12; admission for senior citizens, students with ID and children ages 5-17 is $8; ACCESS card holders’ admission is $2; and JASGP members, military with ID, teens with the Philadelphia STAMP Pass, and children under 5 are admitted free. Shofuso is located at Horticultural and Lansdowne Drs., Philadelphia, PA 19131. For more information, visit


PHILADELPHIA, PA February 6, 2020—The Franklin Institute recognizes Black History Month with inspirational yet educational programs that showcase diverse leaders, both past and present, in a variety of STEM fields.



Saturday, February 8 | 11am – 3pm

Pepper Hall

Local student teams compete in a trivia competition highlighting historic contributions made by African Americans to the fields of STEM. Now in its second year, the trivia event is designed to raise awareness and interest in The Franklin Institute’s Youth Programs and is hosted by the Institute’s longstanding PACTS (Partnerships for Achieving Careers and Technology and Science) Program Alumni. Visitors welcome for audience participation and door prizes.


Saturday, February 29 | 9:30am – 12:30pm

Visitors will have a unique opportunity to engage one-on-one with a diverse group of local scientists, engineers, and medical professionals as they share their personal stories and career journey among the museum exhibits that best represent their fields. Now in its tenth year, the Color of Science program showcases strong leaders and influential STEM role models (including two PACTS Program alumni) who will provide hands-on activities that demonstrate their area of expertise, all to guide and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. For more details and a full list of 2020 participants, click here. Presented by Braskem, the Official Diversity & Inclusion Partner of The Franklin Institute.


Throughout February, visitors can learn about the lives and contributions of influential African Americans in Science with new bio-sketch installations, strategically placed in exhibits that relate to their particular field of STEM. The design panels highlight the early inspirations, career paths, and lifelong legacy of some of the brightest minds in science—including Astronaut Guion Bluford and NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson, as well as Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts and more local Philadelphians currently making waves in the fields of science, technology, mathematics, and medicine.

All programming is included with general museum admission.

Contact: Stefanie Santo, 215-448-1152

Noah Lattanzi, 215-448-1388

ABOUT THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE Located in the heart of Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute is a renowned and innovative leader in the field of science and technology learning, as well as a dynamic center of activity. Pennsylvania’s most visited museum, it is dedicated to creating a passion for learning about science by offering access to hands-on science education. For more information, visit