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Open House at the Peter Bressi Senior Center

The Peter Bressi Senior Center, 4744 Frankford Avenue is welcoming new members! Anyone over the age of 60 is most welcome. I visited there on Friday afternoon and found that there’s much happening there!
 
Jim Crawford is the Director and Blair Jordan is the Program Coordinator. Blair invited me to come over to hear about some of what they’re planning. Kathleen B. is one of the seniors who has stepped up to get involved in planning, too!
 
Janet Emily Bernstein, President, The Frankford Garden Club was there giving them advice on beautifying their outside patio space which is quite spacious. Staff wanted to involve members in choosing and planting seeds and plants, then caring for them, too! It’s really a nice space. There is a parking lot that you enter on Griscom Street.
 
In talking with Jim, he told me that their Center has a greater number of “younger” seniors and many are men. A free lunch is available daily. The facility is great.
 
But don’t take this just from me. This Friday, May 25, there is an Open House beginning at 10:00 AM with prizes, games and food. So, kick off your holiday weekend with a visit to get the “scoop” about a “hangout” for folks our age!
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Can You Be A “Turning Point” In A Child’s Life?

Do you have space in your home and your heart for a foster child? Could you be a foster parent – full or part-time or on an emergency basis? This is the question that Latasha Myers and Marcus Wing, Resource Home Coordinators, at Turning Points for Children are asking us to consider. Their “job”, but it is so much than a job, is to build stronger families, giving them and the community a foundation for a brighter future.

Turning Points for Children is a leading agency in the city providing services to families. For over 175 years they have been successfully been offering programs for children who have been in abusive or unsafe environments. Families often find themselves in difficult situations due to poverty, unemployment, addictions, homelessness or the parent’s own childhood experiences.

Turning Points for Children was born because of the mergers of several agencies servicing children. Most recently in 2008, The Children’s Aid Society of Pennsylvania and The Philadelphia Society for Services to Children would form Turning Points for Children. This name really fits. Our local office is located at 4329 Griscom Street. May is Foster Care Awareness Month and this is the perfect time to learn more about being a foster parent.

I recently sat down to interview Latasha and Marcus. I was very impressed with their passionate advocacy, their hearts and the smiles on their faces as they talked about their life’s work. Both believe that every child should have a real childhood in a stable and safe home environment where they can grow physically and emotionally. Children are referred through the Child Abuse Hotline and/or through Department of Human Services.

Latasha Myers (l) and Marcus Wing (r), Resource Home Coordinators

Here is what they want you to know: their days are spent recruiting prospective foster parent(s) for infants up to 21 year olds. Don’t believe the stereotypes that foster children  are “bad”. Very often, these kids are in these situations through no fault of their own. There is a large need and Turning Points for Children is dedicated to helping kids. That’s why these children are often placed in their own neighborhoods because the familiar surroundings help them. Helping these kids is also helping to build community and a strong foundation for the future. The Department of Human Services’ Improving Outcomes for Children initiative came up with the idea of trying to keep the children in their communities so that it would be less disruptive.

If you would like to be a foster parent, you first receive training from a Resource Parent Support Specialist. You must be at least 21 but there is no age limit regarding being a foster parent. You need to get the appropriate clearances but they are paid for by Turning Points.  A home inspection is conducted to be sure the environment is safe and a good “fit” for you and the child. Once you are certified, each foster parent is given a Resource Support Specialist. As a foster parent, you are not alone. When a child is placed with you, Turning Points for Children has already evaluated the child determining their needs so that resources are readily available and provided. Ongoing support is there for you.

You are compensated monthly which varies with the age of the child. Infants, of course, need formula, diapers and teenagers receive an allowance to help teach them some independent skills. Clothing is provided as well. Each child is eligible for CCIS (child care if you’re working) and Medicaid.

Marcus and Latasha wanted you to also know that being a foster parent is very rewarding for you, too. You are helping to build community by giving these children a sense of a caring community. Of course, you are also giving back by supporting a family at a time they need it the most. The ultimate goal is to reunite children with their families but sometimes that isn’t possible. Some foster children are in foster care longer and might be able to be adopted by you or someone else. As Marcus said, you could be caring for the next President, leader, doctor, etc. But we all know its most important what kind of person you are.

Turning Points for Children are the first to volunteer with Frankford community projects, they are everywhere and they always have a little something to give out. They are all wonderful  community partners and I have met quite a few over the past years. They are very supportive of this community. This is why they have focused on building partnerships with other organizations in the community and offering opportunities for parents to come together like their “Parent Cafe”.

If you would like to learn more about being a foster parent, please don’t hesitate to contact Latasha or Marcus. You can reach Latasha Myers at 215-287-4353 or email lmyers@turningpoints.phmc.org or Marcus Wing at 267-449-1558 or email mwing@turningpoints.phmc.org.

Their website is turningpointsforchildren.org or find them on Facebook at Turning Points CUA3 and on Twitter @tp4cCUA3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Offering Rehabilitation Services That Respects the Individual; Not Just the Law

We attended the press conference concerning one of our area’s needs – tighter regulations and control over the recovery facilities which we know are very plentiful in the Frankford area. The press conference was held at the offices of State Representative Jason Dawkins in the Daral Building, 4667 Paul St., 19124 on Tuesday, December 19.

State Representative Angel Cruz was also there as both Jason and he were instrumental in forming what would become SB 446 which amends the Administrative Code to require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to license or certify drug and alcohol recovery houses which receive public funding.

Together, with State Representative Aaron Kaufer these “bills” (ideas) became amendments that were added to SB 446 that State Senator Thomas McGarrigle will introduce for Senate hearings.

State Representative Cruz explained that benefits should only be used by facilities who respect those in need of recovery services. Sometimes facilities use single family homes that don’t have enough space for those they claim they want to help. Safe havens is what is needed, says Cruz.

State Representative Dawkins acknowledged that this is an ongoing effort. We first have to define what is a recovery house? Dawkins also made the analogy that homicides by overdose has increased in the last four years and overshadows even the deaths we are seeing due to gun violence. He was pleased his colleagues wanted to address these issues and was happy to work with them. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance is important as well.

We know and see this epidemic, a scourge that is taking the lives of our people, especially the young, and must treat it as the disease it is. Once you contract, it is so very, very hard to escape its grasp. No one should be profiting. It’s time for tighter regulations. Thank you to St. Reps. Jason Dawkins and Angel Cruz for taking steps to bring this topic into the light to improve services to those in need of them. That is simply what it’s all about!

Stephanie Scully, CEO and Founder of the Joy of Living Recovery Program, is held in high esteem here in Frankford. Establishing her first recovery home in 2005, she now oversees 10 facilities. The Joy of Living Recovery Program focuses on providing a safe haven where those seeking rehabilitation feel secure, learn how to structure their days and discover that the “joy” you find in helping others becomes a large part of your own “joy”. The Joy of Living Recovery Program provides volunteers all the time and is willing to support the community whenever and wherever there is a need. We can attest to their great generosity of heart. We had a chance to talk with Stephanie after the press conference. Thank you, Stephanie, your staff and residents for lifting Frankford up each and every day! May you continue to be even more successful in 2018.

 

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Frankford’s “New Academic Opportunity”

Once you work in the education field, you never ever retire because teaching and learning becomes a part of who you are. It was a real pleasure as well as refreshing to meet Jessica Hasben, the CEO of Qor Charter School. Once you meet Jessica, too, you’ll find that she does indeed have that passion for children and their education that you, too, become a believer and hope that she does indeed succeed.

Jessica has taught in many different academic settings and in most of them, she has found lacking a real commitment to encouraging the growth of the whole child. When Jessica was growing up in Southwest Philadelphia, she was a good student but there was a lack of support, too, and I would venture to say a lack of expectations as well. Jessica wanted to be seen for who she was – that good student but also for someone to recognize her other talents but she felt invisible. She was just sitting in a desk – just another somebody to be taught. That experience can be so hard to overcome.

But Jessica did overcome those obstacles and once she graduated, she felt her future possibilities included teaching and maybe, one day, having the power and position to run a school of her own. So Jessica continued her own education. She earned a B.S. in Psychology from St. Joseph’s University and is presently enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education: School and Mental Health Program. Jessica’s focus in her studies has also been how to equip students not only with the  learning skills they need but also with the other skills needed for success and so often forgotten, such as self-esteem, a sense of belonging, how to communicate and resolve issues, teamwork, setting goals for themselves, etc. which can motivate them during challenging times. So many young people are at risk today and need a “champion”.  Jessica wants to be that champion and create a school culture of acceptance, respect and a focus on each student and his/her particular needs.

Qor Charter School has submitted their application to the School District of Philadelphia. They will be making a presentation very soon so that their dreams and plans become a reality. Already reaching out to the community, there was an information event planned for Saturday, Dec. 16, 2-4 PM at Simpson Recreation Center, 1010 Arrott St. in Frankford with some giveaways. Several families attended. Earlier, Jessica and her family came to the Padre Pio Prayer Center’s “Christmas Extravaganza” to speak with any interested families there.

If approved, Qor Charter School would open in the old St. Joachim School and eventually serve children in grades K-4 with a total of 312 students. St. Joachim is located at 4290 Penn St.We also met her husband, Lamar, who is in real estate and construction, which is a real asset to someone running a school. You can tell that this couple supports each other and cares about our community.

As you can imagine, an endeavor of this type takes a great deal of time to put together. 2018-2019 will be a planning year with school opening for the 2019-2020 year. For the most impact, Jessica believes Qor must start with the primary students – the young students as this is where you can do the most good. The curriculum is geared to students known as “at risk” – those who need those extra supports that really every child needs. Each classroom will have a Lead Teacher and an Assistant. You can read more of their application that was submitted to the School district here.

This is an ongoing story that we will happily follow for you. We are rooting for Jessica and Lamar and the Qor Charter School because we believe that each and every child deserves the best education they can get because so much depends on it – their own feelings of success and happiness and the community’s as well. We need our young people; we are counting on their ideas, energies and passion to take us forward.

Jessica has had an in initial meeting with the School District of Philadelphia. Based on the positive response and support she already feels from the community, Jessica would like us to take a  moment and email them and tell them that you support Qor Charter School’s application and write a sentence why. Be sure to mention “Qor Charter School” so they know who you’re talking about.   All you need to do is to “click” on this link – SRC@philasd.org   Thank you!

If you would like more information regarding Qor Charter School, please contact Jessica Hasben at jhasben@qorcharterschool.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mastery Charter at Smedley Elementary School Engages Families

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Please note: This story first appeared in the April/May print edition of The Frankford Gazette. I never finished adding the photo gallery – a good lesson about timeliness in all things for this student of life. 

I was very intrigued and interested in learning about Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary after my first email encounter with Danielle Nicoletti, Assistant Principal of Operations and Student Life at Smedley. I had emailed Danielle regarding our Frankford Community Calendar and I received back an enthusiastic response and a willingness to “connect and work within the community”. One of their activities for March was holding a Job Fair for parents after they had offered parents’ workshops in resume writing and job interviewing skills. This is something I have long believed in –  that we are lifelong learners and schools can play a much larger role in the community as a learning resource for all!

We wanted to share with you more about Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary. Franklin D. Smedley Elementary is located at 1790 Bridge Street. Smedley was designed by Irwin T. Catharine, who was the chief architect of the city’s public schools for almost 20 years. Smedley was built in 1927-1928. He had a penchant for the Gothic Revival look but when used for schools, it’s also called Collegiate Gothic. Smedley operated for over 80 years as a traditional Philadelphia public school but was struggling by the time Mastery Charter came on the scene.

Mastery Charter took over Smedley in 2010 and they were up for the challenge of both refurbishing a building in dire need and improving the delivery of instruction to its’ students who were also in need. Mastery Charter Smedley began with an emphasis on inclusion of parents, students and staff to create a culture where everyone feels they belong. During the past 7 years, physical improvements have included painting, repairs, upgrading wiring and the building of an addition which includes a gym, 4 classrooms and handicap access for those in need.  

Cait Murphy has been in an administrative position since day one. She was an assistant principal for the first five years and then principal for the last two years. This year’s 6th grade graduating class is the first one that she has seen “grow up” from Kindergarten to now making the move most likely to the Lenfest Campus, 35 S. 4th Street, for grades 7 through 12.

Frankford is an area where many parents do struggle financially and this makes succeeding in school even more important for our children to open up future possibilities for them. As you enter Smedley, a poster at the top of the steps encourages students to work hard, to go to college, to work and realize their dreams. That’s the purpose of an education. Mastery Charter elementary schools make a commitment to be “neighborhood” schools – they do not engage in city-wide lotteries. There is, of course, a waiting list for upper grades but Principal Murphy told us that for this coming school year 20 seats are still available for Kindergarten. If you are interested, you must live in this catchment area….. but do contact them directly at the school or by downloading and completing an application here – http://www.masterycharter.org/enroll/philadelphia-enrollment/

Principal Murphy exudes pride in her school and her students’ achievements which she attributes to a culture of family, community and a school spirit that drives the learning curriculum. She gives high marks to her teachers and support staff who go the extra mile to make it all happen. The PTA is growing and the School Advisory Committee are also key components of Smedley’s success. She has flexibility in her staffing and budgeting which allows her to do what is best for her students.

Stressing academics, reading is emphasized in the Early Literacy program gives each student, in Kindergarten through Second Grade, one hour of small group instruction which includes phonics and guided instruction. Students are given a strong foundation upon which to build and develop further skills and interests. This continues throughout the grades as they are focused on continuing to improve their PSSA scores. Many children are at grade level or beyond and teachers can individualize within their classrooms to address each student’s needs.

Every Wednesday, students have a half-day for teachers to engage in professional development honing their own skills. Unlike the public schools, there is no union, but their salaries are performance-based, meaning they do well when their students do well. There teachers like teaching here, partly because of the financial opportunity but mostly because of the community that exists. There are three Assistant Principals who help teachers better develop their skills and focus on best practices for academic instruction in a positive way.

But school doesn’t end at the bell! There are after school programs and events for families. Last Thanksgiving, families were invited to participate with the food being cooked and served by Lintons, their food service company. Traditional dance nights are held with more events planned.

During our visit all was calm and everyone was doing what they should. Students traveled to and from quietly, in an orderly fashion. Asking about discipline (there are no police or security guards here), Principal Murphy told us that when something does happen, the students are taken aside and whatever happened is discussed to be understood and to discuss alternative ways of handling matters (conflict resolution).  

We enjoyed our visit and did witness many of the reasons why Principal Murphy is proud of her school family. It really is a family – Principal Murphy’s father sometimes comes to volunteer.

There were a few openings in the spring for a very few grades, but if you are interested, please call the office at (215) 537-2523. Please mention you read about them in The Frankford Gazette