Oct. 5, 2002 marked the annual Philadelphia Cares Day, a citywide event sponsored by the organization of the same name.
Approximately 12,000 local volunteers came out in the effort to revitalize over 100 Philadelphia public schools, and Temple University students, staff, and faculty joined the ranks with their effort to refocillate five schools in the Temple community.
Although Temple has participated in Philadelphia Cares Day in the past, this year’s event also coincided with the Homecoming, bringing more students than ever out to lend a hand.
“This is the kickoff event for our Homecoming week, when we traditionally have a community service project as part of our weekly celebration,” said James Fitzsimmons, the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students.
Fitzsimmons welcomed the volunteers as they enjoyed a continental breakfast and set out the day’s game plan.
“It’s another great example of Temple’s commitment to the community that we hope to serve,” he said.
“This really is the spirit of the Temple family; it’s exemplary of the traditions of Russell Conwell.”
The volunteers were divided among the five Philadelphia schools linked to Temple through the newly established Memorandum of Understanding.
The Memorandum was signed this summer with the School Reform Commission and constituted a partnership between Temple University and five schools within the Philadelphia School District: Dunbar Academics Plus School, Tanner Duckrey School, James Elverson Middle School, Ferguson Academics Plus School and John Wanamaker Middle School.
“There was a call for organizations to manage various schools, and the community essentially asked us to do that for the schools around Temple’s campus,” said Joseph DuCette, “Acting Dean of the College of Education.
“In the summer, what Temple decided to do, rather than manage the schools, was sign a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a partnership. President Adamany feels that you don’t go into a school with the attitude that ‘we know what’s wrong and we’re going to tell you how to fix it.’ We’re going to spend a year planning and deciding what we want to do, build trust, and then on from there. My view, in terms of educational reform, is that’s the only thing that works.”
While Temple has a longstanding history of involvement with community schools, such as the 1988 “adoption” of Duckrey Elementary by the Fox School of Business, the MOU binds Temple to its partner schools on a number of levels.
“Temple is going to do everything it can possibly do to help out the partner schools in the areas of school safety, curriculum and instruction, professional development, and resources,” said Ruth Anderson, principal of Tanner Duckrey School.
Taking advantage of the of Philadelphia Cares Day, Temple University made the request to volunteer at its five partner schools.
“Rather than sending students and staff to schools across the city, we wanted to work with our schools,” said Richard Englert, vice president for Administration.
Anderson was pleased to see the Temple volunteers revitalize Duckrey on Saturday.
“I can’t find the adjective for describing just how I feel about the support I have been given by Temple University,” she said.
“This is the third time that Temple has come to clean up, beautify, and offer tech support to our school… and it just uplifts the children to be able to come to a place that is beautiful and clean.”
More than 40 volunteers spent the morning at Duckrey pulling weeds, painting walls and fences, and sweeping the schoolyard.
Holly Logan, a senior Public Relations major, was volunteering for the second time for Philadelphia Cares Day.
“It’s really cool to do this because it makes people in the community respect us and see that we’re not just slacker college students. It’s our community because we go to school here, but it’s their community because they live here. We share it… and the responsibility for it.”
Logan is a member of TUCSA, the Temple University Community Service Association.
Approximately 20 of its members volunteered for Philadelphia Cares Day, including freshman Anneliese Zausner-Mannes.
“To be have students in college, which is the highest education one can reach, give back to an elementary school, where education begins, is amazing,” she said.
“It is truly moving.”
Sondra McKoy, a Philadelphia resident and member of the National School and Community Corps, served as one of the site coordinators for the day.
“To know that Temple is not only concerned about their college students, but also their community, just creates a sense of togetherness,” she said.
“That students in this community can come to their school and feel safe, and know that Temple is more involved–not just with clean-up, but with things such as literacy and technology, is very positive.”
Although volunteers spent much of the day cleaning and beautifying the school, Temple students and staff also provided assistance with the school’s computers.
Scott Brannan, a Consultant for Computer Services, volunteered his day to update and systemize several of the computers at Duckrey.
“Today we’re uploading some free and licensed products and working out kinks in their computer systems, but [Technical Services] works throughout the year with the partner schools,” he said.
Several students that attend Duckrey came out on Saturday to see the efforts of the volunteers.
“It doesn’t look so dirty like it was,” said Shanae Hollis, a fourth grader at Duckrey.
“It’s good to have Temple help clean so when you go to play or go outside for recess you don’t trip on glass.”
While it is the Philadelphia students that ultimately benefit, Juvencio Gonzalez, Assistant Director for the Office of Community Relations, doesn’t want to underestimate the effect the day has on Temple volunteers.
“It has been a marvelous experience for so many students,” he said.
“It’s given them an opportunity to see the difference even one day can make. It’s fantastic.”
Kristine Povilaitis can be reached at ABERGRRL17@lycos.com