In the middle of Feltonville, there is a small part of peace and quiet tucked away on the side of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Wyoming Branch. Nestled up against the towering walls, a silent garden full of blue and purple Silk Hydrangea flowers can be found. After being planted roughly five years ago, the garden has been an inspiration to the community.
“I come here a few times a week because it is one of the only quiet places in the neighborhood where you can get fresh air and nice scenery,” said Marcy Howard, a resident of Feltonville.
After recently retiring, Howard has visited the garden often when she enjoys reading books.
“The garden has been a place where people can simply get some time to themselves,” said library employee Ruth Gilbert.
The garden was planted by the American Indochinese American Council located at 4934 Old York Road. Although not located in the same area, it is one of the many positive marks the Indochinese American Council has spread throughout Philadelphia.
The Indochinese American Council is a non-profit organization that has been helping immigrants and children for almost three decades.
This organization has taken the time to look beyond basic after-school programs and tutoring sessions. The IAC staff has worked closely with their partnered schools. Specializing in working with immigrants, the IAC works to improve language and educational learning skills.
In 2008 the IAC was recognized for its successful partnership with Multi-Cultural Academy Charter School. The IAC and MAC work well together because of their common interest in discipline and an efficient staff. For years, MAC has consistently maintained a high percentage of students who go on to college and trade schools.This accomplishment reflected the success of the IAC.
For young students who do not speak English as their first language, the IAC has a motive to teach the language and provide their students with the support they need to succeed throughout their educational experience. The IAC also extends a helping hand to those who are struggling in classes at school. In order to do this, the staff reviews reading, writing and math skills on a regular basis. By doing this, the tutors and staff at IAC found that their students have become more efficient in math and reading.
The IAC has thoroughly considered every aspect of people’s lives. Since the majority of young students in kindergarten and elementary school walk home after class, the IAC has an afterschool program so that children can stay safe by coming to the program straight from school. This way, children are transported to the building, rather than walking home alone.
“We have seen children as young as five years old walk home from school,” said Interim Executive Director Le-Quyen Vu.
Le-Quyen was recently appointed the new director. With more than 20 years of experience, the organization has faith that she will continue to benefit the IAC with her experience and love for helping others.
The IAC is not considered your average after-school program. The IAC staff specially meet with the schools they have partnerships with to determine what learning material they can affiliate into their lessons to help their students in the long-run.
For youth and adults ages 17 and older, the IAC has designed the High School Diploma Program. This program sharpens math and reading skills needed to obtain a GED or high school diploma. The program also focuses on establishing internship opportunities as well as providing the service needed to apply to college and trade schools. The adult programs specifically focus on researching and independent skills so that students can have the tools needed to succeed.
The IAC does not stop at a high school learning level. Newly designed, the IAC established a partnership with Harcum College in Philadelphia. In this curriculum, students can enroll in the college part time while working close with the IAC in order to maintain their grades. So far, past students that have joined this program scored an average above a 2.5 GPA. IAC’s records show 75 percent of its students have gone on to college and successful careers.
Aside from schools, the IAC also has programs concerning family life.
“We have discovered research that proves children who have parents that are poorly educated have an effect on the child’s ability to learn,” Vu said.
In order to help this, the IAC’s program called “Family Literacy” is designed to teach parents basic skills on how to communicate with their children in a positive way.
Vu said her goal is to expand the organization, but has found it difficult to do so because the city’s funding has been low. Vu’s objective is to increase the number of qualified people within the job market. With hopes to expand the Harcum program, the IAC will keep working to increase the number of graduates.
Just as their garden at the library, the IAC will continue to grow throughout the community. The IAC will proceed to keep trying to improve the neighborhood and other parts of the city as best as it can.