The Kensington Multiplex of High Schools is made up of four schools–Kensington Creative and Performing Arts, Kensington Health and Science Academy, Kensington High School for International Business and Kensington Urban Education Academy. Once one large and all-encompassing high school, community leaders dissolved the old Kensington High School into smaller schools and gave each institution a unique theme to allow children to have a choice in their education, as well as create a more personal learning experience.
“Lucy Feria, who was the superintendent at the time, along with [community organization] Youth United For Change, teamed up with principal [Eileen] Weissman and began to set up a series of community meetings to see what the neighborhood wanted for Kensington High School,” said Deborah Carrera, principal of Kensington Creative and Performing Arts.
After looking at a series of successful public school models in other parts of the country, the choice was made to break the school up into the theme-based model the Multiplex currently has in place.
“In breaking into the smaller schools, we’ve seen a significant decrease in our dropout rate, and last year we had 63 percent of our seniors either go to a college or technical colleges,” Carrera said.
Now that a football team has been established at the Kensington Multiplex, members of the team are beginning to take note of how important such a program can be to their high school experience.
Aaron Garcia a junior at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts, is one of the brightest stars on the Tigers, not just on the field as a free safety and running back, but also in the classroom.
“I always hear people saying how if they could go back to high school they’d play football,” said Garcia. “If I didn’t play this year, I would have missed out on my opportunity to play in my lifetime.”
Garcia has seen a positive change in himself and his teammates since joining the school’s football team, and how his high school’s staff have also taken notice.
“Football’s given me dedication, without it I wouldn’t be dedicated to a lot of things in life. You’ve got to be dedicated,” Garcia said. “A lot of teachers support our football team and asking about how our team is doing. That’s a big reason why we are becoming more ambitious in the classroom and on the field.”
One of the main obstacles to the Tigers’ future success is the crippled state that the Philadelphia Public School District currently finds itself in. The district has been
closing schools all over the city, with 37 public schools slatted for closing this year, which represents nearly 15 percent of the city’s nearly 250 schools. One school set to close is Carroll High School in Port Richmond where some of the members of the Kensington football team attend.
In addition to closings, many after-school activities are being removed from schools, especially sports. In the Kensington Multiplex, the wrestling program was recently taken away, making the formation of the football team even more surprising and borderline miraculous.
Kensington Multiplex administrators acknowledge that in order for the football to succeed with these budget cuts there must be someone who will go through seemingly insurmountable odds to make it happen. Ellwood Erb, Head Coach of the Kensington Tigers, has brought it upon himself to do just that. But Erb’s players note that he is not only a coach to them but educator as well.
“Coach Erb has been a coach, a friend and an teacher at the same time,” Garcia said. “He’s one who really teaches us to discipline ourselves and dedicate ourselves, as well as dedicate himself to making this team happen.”
Additional thanks to videographers Steve Reitz and Jess Ruggierio. For more about the story of the Kensington football team, visit RiseoftheTigers.com.