One Student at a Time

By the time Ryan Rivera was 18 years old he had dropped out of high school twice, lost his father, almost lost his mother to breast cancer, had a child, been to a disciplinary school, and been arrested twice. Perhaps counterintuitively, after a lifetime of seeing drugs sold on every corner, selling drugs himself, witnessing regular violence on his block, and frequent run-ins with law enforcement, this North Philly kid—now 21—had always wanted to be a police officer.

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Bienvenidos a la Escuela

Ane Ormaechea looks a bit like a mime when she’s teaching. She dramatically uses her hands to illustrate concepts like addition and subtraction, acting out “combining” and “separating” two imaginary groups of objects by pointing to numbers or pictures she drew on the board before class.

“I make things very visual for them,” Ormaechea notes.

She has to—because she’s teaching in Spanish. Ormaechea is the bilingual kindergarten teacher at Southwark Elementary School in South Philly. She speaks and teaches almost completely in Spanish. Half of her students are native Spanish speakers and the other half native English speakers, most of whom had no prior exposure to Spanish before starting Southwark’s dual-language immersion program in September.

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Help Them Build And They Will Come

When she was a child in Egypt, Hoda Khalil’s grandmother used to make dukkah, a versatile paste made of roasted almonds, herbs and exotic spices. A few years ago, when this childhood favorite started to take off in the foodie-sphere, Khalil, who moved to the Philadelphia area in the 1980s, called her family in Egypt and asked them to send grandma’s recipe.

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Selling the Seller

Imagine a school with a computer lab filled with new Apple desktops. Full kindergarten to 8th grade services for students with autism spectrum disorders. A nationally recognized rock band. A two-way Spanish immersion program that produces kids who are bilingual and biliterate by second grade.

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The Play(ground)’s the Thing

Mayor Jim Kenney, along with other city and school officials, have announced their intention to create community schools—neighborhood centers that combine academic and social services to improve both classroom learning and the health of a neighborhood. Inherent in the idea is that  a school community is more than just a building filled with students and teachers—it’s a neighborhood working together to learn, heal and grow. To landscape architect Lois Brink, creating a school community begins outside—by inviting the community into the schoolyard.

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