This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Oscar Wang is a Haverford College senior. (Photo: Wendy Harris) When Oscar Wang was a sophomore at Haverford College, he had to pick his top three internships from a list for his “Grassroots Politics in Philadelphia” course. Wang now admits the Notebook was not one of them.
But when his professor recommended that he also apply to the news organization, Wang did – and landed the position.
“The Notebook was commonly touted as one of the premier resources in Philadelphia, and it was highly recommended to me,” Wang said.
“But not until interning did I fully become aware of the Notebook, all that it stands for, and all the reporting associated with it. [Interning there] was one of the best decisions that I made in college.”
Once on board, Wang, a Los Angeles native, was immediately thrust into covering Philadelphia’s education scene. A major news story broke on his first day.
“I’ll never forget that day – January 19, 2012. That’s the day [School Reform Commissioner Feather] Houstoun announced the District’s budget gap, and Thomas Knudsen was brought on as the chief recovery officer,” Wang recalled.
The District was entering a tumultuous period, having announced nine proposed school closures just a few months earlier.
“I attended two Facilities Master Plan meetings on my first day and [remember] activists with yellow shirts cheering for [E.M.] Stanton because Stanton was on the list of school closings. After that I got my feet wet blogging and writing short pieces,” said Wang, who ended up closely following those who rallied to save Stanton.
After completing his internship in the spring of 2012, Wang became a Notebook member.
“I became a member because I had a fantastic experience there, but also because of the respect I have for the organization,” he said. “It is a great resource, and I wanted to support that.”
After his stint at the Notebook, Wang plunged back into the Philadelphia education scene. In the summer of 2012, he landed a fellowship working for the School Reform Commission.
Almost a year later, he started teaching at the school he covered while interning at the Notebook. Wang, 22, now teaches in E.M. Stanton’s Civics and Rhetoric program, an enrichment class where he talks with students about how to maximize their academic potential.
“One of the capstone projects was to create a course they would want to take at a post-secondary institution. One student created a math course. Another student created an art class where on different floors they could learn different types of art,” Wang explained.
“So a lot of different ideas were presented which affirmed the things that students felt passionate about, so it was about engaging them in a way to know that their passions have a place in the world.”
A political science major and now a Haverford senior, Wang also helps students through a nonprofit he and college classmate Ben Wohl launched last August. The organization, Mentor for Philly, helps high school students assess their post-secondary options and prepare college applications. It works with counselors and administrators to provide student support through volunteer mentors from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania. The organization has received curriculum from the National College Advising Corps, as well as training and support for its mentors from the three colleges.
Mentor for Philly has assisted about 100 students at Parkway Center City, Parkway West, and Central high schools.
Though Wang has a busy schedule, he said he always makes time for the Notebook.
“The Notebook is unique because it exclusively covers the Philly education news sector through in-depth reporting that not everyone can do. There is a lot of amazing content that is in a simple and digestible form, so I read it constantly because I’m always looking out for that next story and what will break.”