Category Archives: Youth

Smith Memorial Playground’s Black History Month Exhibit Celebrates 120-Year History of Racially Integrated Play

In celebration of Black History Month, families are invited to Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse at 3500 Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19121 on Saturday, February 23 from 10am-12pm for “120 Years of Integrated Play” presented by Ballard Spahr LLP, a free exhibition of historic photographs and artifacts that highlight Smith’s commitment to the African American community and integrated play spaces since 1899. Visitors will also enjoy special craft activities and a story collection room where families can share their memories of playing at Smith.

Even during the Jim Crow Era of segregation in public schools and facilities, Smith remained a racially integrated play space and operated additional locations that served large African American and immigrant populations. Smith has been an important part of many Philadelphia families’ lives for generations and continues to serve a diverse population, welcoming children from every zip code in Philadelphia and beyond for free family visits as well as a wide range of on-site programming, events, and community programs.

Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse is a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia’s East Fairmount Park. Founded in 1899, Smith welcomes visitors from more than 500 zip code areas including every zip code in Philadelphia. The mission of Smith is to provide and promote opportunities for unstructured free play for children and it contributes to the development of healthy children, strong families, and safe communities by: 1) maintaining a proud tradition of free family admission; 2) partnering with community-based organizations to reach a diverse audience; and 3) advocating for the importance of play. For more information about Smith please visit 

Contact: Zoe Lowry

215.765.4325 x101 (O)
610.609.1590 (M)



A Season for Giving by Jasmine Bullock

The holiday season is always an exciting time of year. Families and friends often fellowship and exchange gifts. It is also a time for giving and the West Philadelphia area is abundant with opportunities to give to people in need, of all ages. Community Coordinator, Pamela Evans has made it her mission to provide opportunities for students and families in need. Ms. Evans spent fifteen years serving the students and families of Discovery Charter School. Within the last year, she transitioned to Alain Locke Elementary, a Community School in West Philadelphia, where she has instituted several programs to service the families throughout the area.

The Locke school and Pam Evans have initiated a “Community Closet.” This space is open for donation of clothing and hygiene supplies for people of all ages. The donations of clothing, toys, baby supplies, and bath supplies are open to all but specifically those who reside in the West Park High Rise apartments and shelters. The Locke School is continuously open taking in tax deductible donations. They are especially in need of donations of diapers children’s clothing, and clothing adults can wear for job interviews. They are also looking for school uniforms and sweat pants to help discourage student absences due to lack of appropriate clothing.

This particular community closet is special because of the personal attention “shoppers” get when looking for items. The school has acquired a volunteer to work as a shopping attendant. This individual not only sorts and maintains the items donated to the closet, he also works with individuals to choose items to best fit their needs. The personal attention allows those in need to feel special and guarantees that they receive the right items.

Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday season, Ms. Evans has several missions planned. With the help of local organizations and businesses such as Westside Church and the People’s Emergency Center, Ms. Evans was able to organize the donation of approximately 45 Turkeys to families for their Thanksgiving feasts. Ms. Evans is proud that Lavish Restaurant at 4308 Lancaster Avenue will provide dinner on Thanksgiving for 300 people free of charge.

Ms. Evans also arranged for three students at the Locke School to have a dinner at Lavish Restaurant with their families. The students will be chosen through raffle based on their attendance and timeless to school throughout the month of November.

Another initiative that is thriving is the Gifts of Warmth Drive. This project looks to collect socks, hats, gloves and scarves for children in the area. Ms. Evans has partnered with local hair salons and barber shops on Lancaster Avenue to host donation boxes for their clients and members of the community to drop off donations.

The Gifts of Warmth initiative goes beyond the doors of the Locke School. Each year, the Please Touch museum collects coats for children in need. They send all of their donations to the Second Antioch Baptist Church. Rev. Dr. Joe Nock and his leadership team distribute the gifts of coats to not only members of the church who are in need but also to community members throughout Parkside. While winter is often thought of as a season for giving, donations to many of these initiatives can be given throughout the year. Sweater, scarf, hat, glove and sock donations can be left at the Please Touch Museum from November 24th through December 8th. All donations to the Locke School for the Community Closet can left in the main office of Alain Locke School, 4550 Haverford Avenue, from 8am to 3pm weekdays.

Remember, the holiday season is a time for fun and family but also a time to think about giving to families.

Food Cupboards in the Parkside Area

325 North 39th Street
Saturdays; 10:30am – 1:30pm

Church of New Hope and Faith
662 N. 39th Street
Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 9:30am – 3:30pm

Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
19 South 19th Street
Mondays; 10am until 150 households are served

Grace Lutheran Church
3529 Haverford Avenue

Mt. Zion United Holy Church
4110 Haverford Avenue
West Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church
4527 Haverford Avenue

Dance Logic Program Open at West Park Cultural Center – by Niesha Kennedy

DanceLogic is a unique S.T.E.A.M. program offered by West Park Cultural Center. The program combines dance and computer coding leading to development of original choreography and performance. Teen girls’ ages 13 through 18 years old learn the value of focus, dedication, and teamwork, as well as industry standard computer coding language. This innovative program is designed to educate, inspire and cultivate girls of color to explore the S.T.E.A.M. field: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in a creative, active and exciting environment

The program uses dance to ignite an interest in STEAM, now and in the future. Shanel Edwards, co-instructor of dancelogic, says danceLogic is a space where creativity lives in arts and science, here young girls have infinite possibilities” . During the dance class, led by instructors Shanel Edwards of D2D The Company and Annie Fortenberry, a performer with Ballet 180, the girls learn dance skills and movement techniques. When the girls progress to creating their own choreography, they use coding as a reference. The dance portion of the class is followed by an hour of learning industry standard coding language under the direction of Coding instructor Franklyn Athias, Senior Vice President Network and Communications Engineering at Comcast.

Dancing and coding have similar language involving repetition, direction, and particular combinations.

“I’m helping the kids see that someone, just like them, was able to use Science and Technology to find a very successful career. The combination of dance and logic have good synergies. Learning something like dance requires practice, just like coding”, explains Franklyn Athias. He continues to say “Yes, the dance is more physical, but it requires the students to try, fail, and try again. Before long, the muscle memory kicks in and the student forgets how hard it was before. Coding is really the same thing. Learning the syntax of coding is not a natural thing. Repetition is what makes you become good at it. After learning the first programming language, the students can learn other programming languages because it becomes much easier.”

Annie Fortenberry adds “My favorite thing about the program is that the students can explore leadership roles. By building their own choreography and supporting each other in coding class, they navigate creating and sharing those creations, as well as resolving conflict to make one cohesive dance. There’s a lot of beauty and bravery in that process.”

The very first session of danceLogic culminated with a special performance at the 11th Annual West Park Arts Festival in June of 2018. The girls performed choreography, showcased what they learned and shared how it has impacted their lives. They committed to continuing their coding education over the summer and into the new school year. danceLogic is offered in two sessions, fall and winter/spring on Saturdays from 12:00pm –2:30pm.

To learn more, please visit: 


Parkside Education: Update

by Michael Burch

This article is a follow up to the discussion in the September issue of the Journal concerning “Education in Parkside.” Although Parkside has lost the long standing Leidy school due to budget cuts, our neighborhood is fortunate to have many other good schools within walking distance of one another. School choices in Parkside include Blankenburg Elementary, Global Leadership Academy, and The School of the Future. Now we can add two new schools to that list: Discovery Charter School (DCS) and the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 4.33.43 PMAlthough the Discovery Charter School has been in Parkside for eleven years, the school has recently moved to a larger (and better equipped) facility on Belmont Avenue. The community was very supportive of this move, although there were some initial traffic flow problems. After DCS opened this September at its’ new location, commuting problems immediately developed. Traffic was congested near the school during morning drop off and afternoon pick up times. It was challenging and problematic transporting over 760 students in and out of the facility each school day. Excited parents parked in no parking zones, at bus stops, in the middle of the street, and even in front of the Fire station.

It was not surprising that neighbors living close to the school were very concerned and upset about this. To the credit of Discovery Charter School, the school’s leaders were very willing to meet with neighbors to discuss the situation. Public meetings were held with staff members, area residents, parents, fire and police officials. A solution to the school transportation problem was developed and implemented and now traffic flows in a relatively normal manner along Belmont Avenue during drop off and pickup times.

The Journal feels that this shows that Discovery Charter School plans to continue being the good neighbor it has been in Parkside over the past eleven years. A key factor about the DCS has been its’ basic educational philosophy in which its’ students have been seen as children of the world. With that philosophy in mind, an important goal of the school has been to extend the horizons of its’ students far beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Students have had the opportunity to travel far beyond the immediate Parkside region and enjoy cultural events and institutions in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. The Discovery Charter School also sponsors biannual international trips for its senior students.

In the past, seventh or eight grade classes have traveled as far away as South Africa and Spain. This school year, the school plans to take a class to Germany. These ambitious and enriching travel experiences give these young people an opportunity to develop an international perspective they would not ordinarily have had

The second (and newest) school welcomed to our area is the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy. Kipp is part of a national system of 141 charter schools from across the country. The Kipp system is a national network of free open enrollment college preparatory public charter schools with a positive record of preparing students for college who live in underserved communities. There are four Kipp schools in Philadelphia; Kipp Dubois is the first high school Kipp has opened in the city.

Recently I visited the school and met with the founding principal Mr. Arron Bass. He gave me additional information about the school. They have been in Parkside at this location since August of this year. Currently they have 465 students enrolled and plan to have 565 students next year. They are an open enrollment school and take students from all over the city. Somewhat like Discovery School they also have a global view of educating students. They have already taken a class of students to Ghana and they plan more international trips in the future. Like most charter schools they are a lottery based school. While at the school I met with several of their students and took a short tour of a few classes. All the students I talked to had college plans in their future. I saw real education going on in the classrooms. Mr Bass informed me that they have partnerships with over 30 colleges and universities that work with them and accept Kipp graduates.

The Journal will endeavor to keep the community informed about the schools mentioned and about Discovery and Kipp in particular.

Please Touch Museum’s “Stories In Schools Program”

by Claudia Setubal 

Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia PA
Please Touch Museum(Photo credit: Jim, the Photographer)

Each fall, after students have settled into the routine of school, neighborhood schools get special visitors. The Please Touch Museum staff works with several local elementary schools and childcare centers to provide special literacy programming inside the classroom.

The visits are part of a program called “Stories In Schools,” that brings the Please Touch Museum’s signature brand of learning through play into classrooms throughout the Parkside neighborhood.

The program’s goal is to support teachers and schools by nurturing students’ love of .books and reading (from preschool through third grade). When a Please Touch Coordinator comes into the classroom, the students are eager and excited as they are exposed to a variety of enriching activities.

The children experience (1) dramatic games; (2) creative math, science, and music activities; (3) book reading; and (4) a final art project at the end of the lesson. The students get to know their PTM facilitator well over the course of the six- week program. At the end of the program, they receive books to take home and free passes to the Museum. The classroom teachers also receive a box of art supplies to continue the activities after the PTM coordinator leaves

The books used in the classroom are selected from outstanding classic and contemporary children’s literature as well as literary selections from the Please Touch Museum’s Book Award winners.

Children who participate in the program help select the Kids Choice Winner for the annual Please Touch Museum Award. Students are able to vote for their favorite book and are invited to participate in the Book Award Ceremony at the Museum.

The “Stories In Schools” program currently takes place at several schools in the Parkside neighborhood and surrounding areas including Belmont Academy Charter School, Rudolph Blankenburg Elementary School, Edward Heston Elementary School, St. Ignatius School, Martha Washington Elementary School, Discovery Charter School, and Heavenly Hall.

Any questions you may have about this program should be directed to me Claudia Setubal, Program Manager of Community Outreach, at 215-578-5133 or email me at

20th Anniversary PACTS Celebration

by Juanita Alexander

On October 3, 2013 the Franklin Institute‘s Partnerships For Achieving Careers in Technology and Science (PACTS) celebrated its’ 20th anniversary. PACTS offers middle and high school students a unique blend of science enrichment, mentoring, and leadership opportunities, especially those living in urban neighborhoods like Parkside.

Several alumni of the program, including keynote speaker Dr. Albert J. Hicks III, spoke passionately about the key role PACTS played in their lives as impressionable teenagers. They stressed the important influence of the program in their continued social and intellectual growth and career choices.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 2.26.36 PMDuring the celebration program, an extensive interview was conducted with PACTS alumnus Jimmy Harmon. The mentoring aspect of PACTS was especially important to Harmon. He said that he regarded PACTS Director Mike Burch as “almost like a second father.” Harmon continued by comparing PACTS to a tree that “when its’ old leaves fall off, has space for new leaves to replace them.”

His comments keenly illustrate the importance of programs like PACTS for Philadelphia’s urban Youth. Harmon began by emphasizing that he “wasn’t even thinking about college before joining PACTS”, feeling that the military was his only sure path to social advancement. He described himself as a “shy teenager who had a real problem speaking in in public.” He said “I always had a problem speaking to more than one person (at a time).” He explained that with PACTS “I got a chance to express myself in a way that I never could before.” He fondly recalled the long conversations he had about Black history and the exposure he had to other social and scientific issues.

He regards the current teen members of PACTS as the “new leaves.” He stressed that they will only truly appreciate what PACTS has done for them after they have graduated from the program. “PACTS” is like gold,” concluded an enthusiastic Jimmy Harmon as he ended his interview.

PACTS Director Mike Burch, a Parkside native, expressed his determination to make the PACTS program more relevant and accessible to areas like Parkside. He stressed the close, integral relationship between Fairmount Park and the adjoining Parkside neighborhood. It is his goal to get Parkside Youth more involved in the environmental projects PACTS has planned in the near future in Fairmount Park