Wingard bikes through North Central to meet community leaders

President Wingard spoke with community leaders about how Temple students can improve their behavior and how the university can give back to the neighborhood.

Guadalupe Portillo (left), the block captain for the 1400 block of Norris Street, speaks with Temple University President Jason Wingard outside her home on Norris Street near Carlisle on April 5. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University President Jason Wingard biked around North Central Tuesday afternoon to speak with community leaders and residents about how the university can address sanitation and safety issues in the area, like students leaving behind excessive trash. 

“We want to learn how can we be better neighbors, how can we be better partners, how we can collaborate more in this community that we share,” Wingard said.

Wingard was joined by Executive Assistant Melissa Zavorksi, Campus Safety Services’ Deputy Chief of Operations Denise Wilhelm and Jacob Golden, a senior political science major and chief external services officer for Temple Student Government. Ken Kaiser, Temple’s chief operating officer, and Charles Leone, the executive director of Campus Safety Services, were also in attendance.

Temple announced that the event was intended to “highlight the importance” of the university and the North Central community working together to reduce gun violence, but residents primarily brought up concerns about the way Temple students treat their neighborhood.

“The purpose is to make sure that there’s an ongoing and steady dialogue between we the university and the citizens, and community leaders, and who are inhabiting the area around campus,” Wingard said. 

Wingard said Temple characterized the bike ride as a “grassroots” effort because it involved working with the community. University officials spoke with community residents they have long-standing relationships with, selecting the participants before embarking on the ride, Leone said in an interview with The Temple News after the event. 

Wingard intends to use feedback from community members to reevaluate Temple’s relationship with the community and adapt to their needs. 

Wingard has visited the neighborhood before and held meetings with community leaders and longtime residents since taking office, he said. 

The bike ride began at roughly 2:10 p.m. with Wingard and other university officials riding down Polett Walk to 11th street, making a left and stopping at the North Central Community Center located on Norris Street near 11th.  Wingard spoke with kindergarten, first grade and second grade students in the center about what they learned in school that day and their future goals. 

Wingard met with Guadalupe Portillo, the block captain for the 1400 block of Norris Street, outside her home on Norris Street near Carlisle. Portillo told Wingard she wants to have a meeting with university officials and more residents.  

Temple needs to continue communicating and meeting with residents to address problems like trash and crime, Portillo said. Wingard created a 22-member violence reduction task force in January, which includes three community members. 

Portillo believes Campus Safety Services can’t be entirely responsible for student safety, and she encouraged students to take advantage of university resources like taking FLIGHT shuttles and using Temple’s walking escort services, like Rave Guardian which was launched in February. 

“There’s good and there’s bad, what are you gonna do?” Portillo said. “You just have to try to hope that it is going to get a little better.But like I said, students have to step up too.” 

At Amos Recreation Center on 16th Street near Montgomery Avenue, Wingard spoke with Jocelyn Marrow, a block captain and retired teacher from General George G. Meade School, Kay Thompson, the treasurer of North Central Special Services District and Joan Briley, the president of North Central Special Services, about how Temple students treat the neighborhood, like failing to properly dispose of their trash. 

“Everything from 13th down to Diamond is a disgrace,” Marrow said. “Okay, the trash is overwhelming along with the rats.” 

Marrow expressed frustration with the lack of funding for the playground. The City of Philadelphia funds the playground, but Marrow informed Wingard of the playground’s needs because Temple students also use it. She wants to see students volunteer at the recreation center and mentor neighborhood children. 

Wingard also stopped at a garden on Bouvier Street near Berks, operated by Bouvier North Central Special Services, an organization run by North Central residents to supplement city-run services. He spoke with Sandra Fernandez-White, the first vice-chairperson at the Philadelphia chapter of the National Congress of Black Women. 

This was Fernandez-White’s first time meeting Wingard, and she was impressed he biked around the neighborhood. She felt Wingard’s humility because he listened to her concerns about the lack of sanitation, Fernandez-White said.

“I feel that he’s gonna really, really meet our concerns, the Temple students as well, but also the few residents that are still here in the neighborhood,” she said. 

Wingard returned to Main Campus outside the Police Center Station on Polett Walk around 3:50 p.m. and posed for a photo before leaving. 

“We are going to do it as much as we can as part of my administration, and the purpose is to make sure that ongoing dialogue and that channel is open,” Wingard said.

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