This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Jeniffer Valdez
Members of Youth United for Change rallied around City Hall yesterday to save the 13 accelerated schools that are on the chopping block for closure to help close a $629 million gap in the District’s budget.
About 100 students and several school administrators gathered on Thomas Paine Plaza, many holding signs that read “Save Our Schools” and “No child left behind…what about us?!” Several students wore shirts bearing the words “I’m worth 25 cents," a reference to amount of the soda tax that is being proposed in City Council to help raise funding for Philadelphia’s schools.
The rally began with three student speakers who attested to their experiences in accelerated schools and how they have impacted their educational paths.
Cassandra Alamo, 18, from Fairhill Community High School said the opportunities available at Fairhill gave her a “second chance” allowing her “to get back into the game” in making a future for herself.
Alexis Izzard, who carried her infant daughter Aziyah, shouted “S.O.S., save our schools!”. Izzard said that the North Philadelphia Community High School has managed to make her “more focused” and that it gives her another chance to “learn, get out of school,” and start a future for her and her daughter.
The rally then moved across the street, as students linked arms and chanted “No education, No life,” among other slogans. The students also circled City Hall and were met by Mayor Nutter, who commended them for their efforts.
“You are worth more than a quarter. You’re worth a whole lot more!” Mayor Nutter said before inviting the students into City Hall. Several students were then invited to visit the offices of various councilmembers to make their pleas to save the schools.
Scott Cruttenden, executive director at Excel Academy Central, said that accelerated schools “offer opportunity for the 50 percent that don’t graduate to get back to school and get a diploma.” He expressed that without the efforts of the accelerated schools the dropout rate would only increase.