Groups of cheerful students skipped towards the colorful Southwark House at the corner of Ellsworth Street in Pennsport after school.
Southwark is one of two facilities under United Communities Southeast Philadelphia.
Established in 1969, the association has promoted educational and economic advancement among South Philadelphia residents for years. Operating on grants and donations, the organization offers many beneficial programs for adults and children at Southwark and the Houston Center, located at 2029 S. 8th St.
Adult programs are offered to those struggling economically. At 12.9 percent, Philadelphia’s 2014 deep poverty rate is the highest among U.S. cities. The organization offers classes helping homeowners face foreclosures, finding residents affordable loans and distributing emergency food and utilities in case of severe weather.
Improving education for youth is also very crucial to United Communities. The City of Philadelphia recently announced the enrollment rate in schools dropped 6 percent, the largest decline the district has experienced in years. In order to help students receive the best education, the community-based organization developed after-school programs for students, offering leadership counseling, intensive prevention services, female group sessions and case conferencing also known as SAFE, and more.
Although the programs are only limited to one specific school, director of after-school programs Latesha Vosacek feels it is important to encourage all students to attend school daily and work hard to achieve good grades.
“With the way the funding is set up,” said Vosacek, “you have to find a school and stick with it. But I think it would be great for these programs to open up to different schools. Who knows what the future will hold?”
– Text, video and images by Amanda Kim.