Germantown: Organization Impacts Urban Youth

Hugh Dixon smiled with program participants.

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EducationWorks is a nonprofit organization that serves urban youth in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One of the Philadelphia branches is located at 3149 Germantown Ave. and provides the youth of the city with in-school and out-of-school programs that encourage education and foster community citizenship. Through partnerships with community organizations, schools and families, EducationWorks is able to reach more than 20,000 urban students each year.
Hugh Dixon led a tour of the murals in the High Step Beacon Center hallway.

The extensive programming that EducationWorks provides is able to influence students’ lives in the classroom. As reported by EducationWorks, with regard to the 2008-09 school year, 68% of students in elementary school or above made grade improvements in their reading and math classes. Germantown High School freshman class president and Germantown High Step Beacon participator, Jihad Taylor is one student that reflects EducationWorks’ influence on school grades. “I’m the ninth grade president and you have to maintain a good grade, B level or A level but I strive for an A. If I fall into the B category that’s not going to hurt me. It’s only going to make me better and make me want to strive more,” Taylor said.

Aisha Abdulla graduated from Audenreid High School and received a full scholarship to La Salle University in 2009. Her aspirations for higher education were initiated through the Beacon Center in her high school. Now, as an EducationWorks volunteer, Aisha encourages other urban youth to value education and the services that EducationWorks provides.

“All I want in life is for the youth of Philadelphia to value education as much as I do. I want them to believe in education and its endless possibilities.  Seriously, what [is] the big deal with getting good grades?  I want them to be confident in their educational abilities. I want them to have self esteem and a dream deep down to go to college,” Abdulla said.

Antwain Lewis practiced his dance solo.

Outside of the classroom, programs like High Step Beacon are able to help students socialize while building character. Levi Joynes Jr., Music Development Coordinator at the Germantown High Step Program stated that he has been able to watch the youth grow within the arts. “My job basically is to get the students to develop their craft, not just musically but I think overall for life. Culturally develop, spiritually and emotionally develop using their skills,” Joynes said.

Julie Swarts has been working with EducationWorks as the director of development and marketing for almost two years and said that although the organization strives to provide life-enriching programs, there are some burdens that get in the way. “Limited finances [get in the way,] most dollars come through government grants that are highly restricted. We are working on developing other funding sources but it is a long slow process, especially in a time of economic challenge. When the for-profit community catches cold, the nonprofit community catches pneumonia. Usually we recover 2 years after the for-profits,” Swarts said.

Although EducationWorks is not new, having been around since 1992, the organization is still unknown to some. “We are a wonderful, good-sized, non-profit that has a branding problem. Few folks outside of education and non-profit work (and sometimes not even then) know about us. It is hard to generate support without folks knowing who we are. We hope [that Philadelphia Neighborhoods] can help our name, mission and work get out there so that we can leverage that into partnerships, funding and opportunities for children,” Swarts stated.

Hugh Dixon smiled with program participants.

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