YES Philly Changes Lives
In Philadelphia, where the dropout rate is 45%, it’s not easy being an educator. It’s even more challenging to start a school. But for Taylor Frome, starting a new school is a natural evolution of her lifelong mission. As one of the founders of Youth Build, Frome pioneered new approaches to youth economic development. Her organization, YES PHILLY, has long offered a broad base of opportunities to Philadelphia’s out-of-school youth.
I first met Taylor in the early 2000s when I learned about their innovative use of media arts and technology programs; I became fascinated at their ability to support young adults by offering authentic learning experiences while creating a warm and trusting community. I especially appreciate the wrap-around approach to counseling and the creative approach to media literacy education there. The GED program they pioneered was a great success! It was a true honor for me to serve on the board of the non-profit organization for three years.
Just after I left Philadelphia in 2012, Taylor was successful in her bid to start an accelerated alternative high school for students between the ages of 16 and 21 who have fewer than 13.5 credits. Today, at the YESPHILLY SCHOOL, students can enroll in 10-week cycles, earning 2.5 credits per cycle. This educational program is responsive to the genuine needs of the young people they serve!
Last week, I had the great delight of visiting the school. What a treat to see how the space, located on the 2nd floor of the OIC Building in North Philadelphia has been spruced up to serve as the home for more than 100 high school students and 50 young people earning their GED. A colorful mural stands at the entrance to the school, and the hallways are splashed with color. Examples of student creative work are proudly displayed. The day’s attendance – 76% on the day I visit – is displayed visibly in the office reception room.
It’s taken time to establish a real learning climate, Taylor admits, but the school is now a warm, safe place where people can work and learn together. These students are bursting with potential. And the well-structured program developed by a dedicated staff helps to create an authentic learning climate. Everywhere, it seems, there are reminders of the school’s policy: no hats, no hoods, no ear buds, no cell phones. Students seem engaged and active in learning and staff are friendly and supportive.
I am looking forward to learning more about the Media Arts and Technology program at YES PHILLY when Jeannine Cook, Media Arts Coordinator and Kaloni Davis, a filmmaker who works as an instructor there, come to offer a workshop at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, July 26 – 31, 2015. Check out this little video!