Literacy program opens location by Main Campus

Mighty Writers opened new programs in partnership with the Church of the Advocate on 18th and Diamond.

Mighty Writers North Philadelphia Program Director, Shamira O’Neal (right), teaches the Teen Scholars program. | Brianna Spause TTN
Mighty Writers North Philadelphia Program Director, Shamira O’Neal (right), teaches the Teen Scholars program. | Brianna Spause TTN

Tim Whitaker has often said there is a need for a Mighty Writers, a nonprofit he founded after a career in journalism, on every corner in Philadelphia. Mighty Writers opened a new location near Main Campus at the Church of the Advocate on 11th near Diamond in April, and began full programming over the summer.

The nonprofit teaches Philadelphia students  to read, write and communicate clearly, striving to empower third to 12th graders at its four locations across the city.

The North Philadelphia opening marked the first time a Mighty Writers branch opened in collaboration with another institution.

“The Church of the Advocate and North Philadelphia are very familiar to us because we have so many connections with Temple, we have so many volunteers from Temple,” Whitaker said. “It was very comfortable to start in North Philadelphia because of the connection with Temple.”

The Church of the Advocate, Whitaker added, was an attractive partner because of its history and legacy.

“It’s done so many important things for the North Philadelphia community for so many decades,” Whitaker said.

The Church of the Advocate offers services to the North Philadelphia community like weekly dinner nights, basketball games for the homeless and educational programs for adults and children. The Episcopalian church was founded in 1886 as a memorial to George W. South, a community leader, at 1801 W. Diamond St.

Sophomore finance major and vice president of the Temple University Community Service Association Jasmine Hay wanted to be involved in something with “kids and their school work,” so she started volunteering at Mighty Writers North.

“I like working here, I like being able to work with high school students,” Hay said. “I’ve always had an interest in that.”

High school sophomore  Niyah Palmer also followed an interest that led to to Mighty Writers after a move from Virginia to Philadelphia.

“My grandma found out about it and then I liked it when I took it in the summer because I like writing,” Palmer said. “You can go anywhere in the world with writing.”

“Being a part of Mighty Writers makes me feel like I’m doing something good with my life,” said Rasheed Alexander, a sophomore at Benjamin Franklin High School who lives in North Philadelphia.

“I don’t think a lot of kids from North Philly know about this program, but I don’t think they’d join if they knew either,” Alexander added. “I like it that way because it’s more quiet and it gives us more room to learn. This program helps me express myself.”

Mighty Writers is also a place for students to go after school if there isn’t anyone to watch them at home, program director Shamira O’Neal said.

“If they’re bored at home, they learn they can bring their homework for homework help,” O’Neal said.

The Mighty Writers program is a part of the church’s Advocate Center for Culture and Education program, which offers neighborhood youth college access and homework help.

Aside from writing and reading, Mighty Writers addresses current topics relevant to the students. During the summer program, students concentrated on the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“We try to talk about things that are relevant to the kids,” O’Neal said. “So we talk about many things like their personal identity, identities of the community, things they like to do, things that affect their lives, their education, being a black child in Philadelphia. I think there’s a lot that goes into what we study and how we study and on being reflective of who they are as people.”

Rose Daraz can be reached at

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