This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Sarah Peterson, communications and development associate for YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, is not a native of Philadelphia, but the Los Angeles transplant says she has fallen in love with the city.
Part of the reason is a summer internship she served at the Notebook.
Peterson was in her junior year at Swarthmore College when a friend told her about the Notebook’s website. She took a look and was so impressed with what she saw that she applied for an editorial internship at the nonprofit, and was accepted for a summer 2008 internship. Peterson spent much of the summer working on a Notebook edition about immigrant students in the School District.
“In the process of interning, I really loved being in Philadelphia and became really passionate about education in Philadelphia,” Peterson said.
“Through my assignments with the Notebook I got to meet students, teachers, and other individuals working hard to ensure that every student can have a great education,” she said.
“I also came to realize that there were a number of great organizations I could get involved with after graduation.”
And she did.
After graduating from Swarthmore in 2009, Peterson, now 26, worked with the Education Law Center as a communications associate via the AmeriCorps VISTA Philly Fellows programs. She also spent two years as an administrator at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.
During that period, her passion for education grew even stronger. She volunteered on the Notebook’s editorial board and started contributing financially to the Notebook. In 2012, Peterson increased her donation, becoming a promoting member.
She also began working at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, a one-year diploma program for returning dropouts and a school that has been covered in the Notebook.
Peterson said YouthBuild’s goal is not only to help high school dropouts get their diploma, but also to acquire the skills necessary for college and beyond. The work the school does with students, she said, often transforms them.
“I see students really changing their own story, and not letting the label of ‘dropout’ define the rest of their lives,” Peterson said. “I see them adopting strengths, an identity, and an idea of what they want to do.”
While she and her colleagues are helping the students, she said, “the students are changing our lives as well.”
Peterson said her job at YouthBuild nicely complements her role as a Notebook member. In fact, she uses the newspaper and website to guide her work, referring to both for the latest education news, and passing out the paper to students, fellow staff, and friends working in education.
The Notebook “is an important resource in the city, but it’s more than a resource. It’s a way that we foster community, teamwork – and communication about what is going on in our schools and what we can do to keep planning for a better future for education in our city,” she said.
“It’s a great hub for people to come together around. That’s what I like about being a member.”