"The point of the conversation today is to look forward. There are important opportunities among us right now in Philadelphia," said Claire Robinson-Kraft, director of Operation Public Education.
The reality is that if we don't start to come together as a city and look forward, we will lose what we have been working so hard for. We can't lose our dynamics and our renaissance. We can't let go of our Philadelphia.
The title of the event was, "Looking Forward: Philadelphia's Education Crisis," and it was not a debate, but a conversation. In the midst of this crisis there are still people who remain positive and believe that now, more than ever there is still an underlying hope.
On August 21, 2013, young professionals from all over the city came together at United Way, located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, to talk education. The discussion was led by Young Involved Philadelphia. From the beginning of summer until now it has been a topic of density and one of important focus to our city.
Like Robinson-Kraft stated, there is an opportunity for young professionals. So, that leads us into two bigger questions: Will we stay? And, will we commit?
"It's been a really tough, tough year, but I still feel optimistic, and that's why I wanted to be here today," said Ami Patel, Deputy Education Officer, Mayor's Office of Education.
So the challenge here, Philadelphia, is short-term solutions and doing our best to avoid them. In that room, full of rows of white chairs and tall windows, sat citizens of Philadelphia, pledging their commitment to a long-term solution.
"We need to send a message that this is not acceptable. We cannot let this happen. We have to make sure to tell our leaders and our politicians that this is not OK. Yes, we have to support our kids and our schools, but we can't continue down this road. The challenge for us is to strike that balance. The immediate challenge that I think we face is fixing the holes. And also, at the same time not letting people off the hook that created the crisis," said Brett Schaeffer, Communications Director, Education Law Center.
The 2011 Pennsylvania State University report, Pennsylvania's Best Investment: The Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education, shows that when investments are made in public education, local and regional communities benefit.
"The report found that public school students who have access to a quality education are more likely to find gainful employment, have stable families, and be active and productive citizens. They are also less likely to commit serious crimes, less likely to place high demands on the public health care system, and less likely to be enrolled in welfare assistance programs" (Mitra, D., Pennsylvania's Best Investment: Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education. 2011).
Education in Philadelphia has now established itself as crisis--an organized chaos, and this meeting was its proof. On a humid Wednesday evening was a group of educators, influencers, and believers, who despite the negatives, continue to have an inspiring energy to see Philly not only succeed, but go beyond.
"We have to find a way to not be in isolation. We are all teaching the same kids and we're all in the same city. I think something that is really important is breaking the barrier between all of these different organizations and coming together to work more collaboratively. We have to help each other because what works for me could work for someone else, and vice versa," said Jessie Gluck, 4th Grade teacher, Mastery Charter Mann Elementary.
At this time it is imperative to call upon all young professionals. Philadelphia needs you, in a long-term relationship kind of way. With commitment comes character and it is our future that needs care.
"We need to remember that kids show up to learn, no matter how much money they're getting," said Gluck.
To all young professionals: let's not have our commitment continue to be question. Let's just do it -- for the future of education.