The energy in the room was high on Friday, January 19th, during our official kick-off of UrbEd! Almost two hundred people gathered in the ornate City Hall chamber for a festive gathering of networking, hearing about core UrbEd concerns, meeting old friends, and celebrating young person energy. The combination of youth attendance and more powerful figures was very encouraging to see because having everyone working together in one space is the biggest channel for change. We are excited about all the students and young people who have come together around UrbEd. Especially exciting was that some youth groups from other school attended, and we connected for the first time. The crowd was an amazing mix of education advocates, city, and state elected representatives,
Co-founders Tamir Harper and Luke Risher presented all of the basic ideas behind UrbEd, including the need for an education advocacy group composed of and run by students. UrbEd intends to collaborate closely with existing groups working for school reform. As UrbEd works to give all Philadelphia public school students a strong, quality education in a system that is responsive and efficient, it will focus on four areas.
The four areas which UrbEd has decided to work towards improving were explained in detail at the event. This includes the physical improvements to decaying school facilities, some of which have high lead percentages in schools, inadequate heat, and deteriorating toxic materials. Another one of UrbEd’s core goals is increasing teacher diversity—more people of color and male teachers in the public school system, specifically black male educators. In addition to this, another core value is reforming policing in our schools, and disrupting the school to prison pipeline. Finally, UrbEd works towards regaining and increasing local control of our school board here in the Philadelphia school district. They have been instrumental in disbanding the School Reform Commission, or SRC, in the past, and are continuing to restore local control moving forward.
However, UrbEd members are quick to acknowledge the financial crises our schools are facing. In recognition of that, they presented a $300.00 gift to Tilden Middle School, given with the hope that UrbEd will always help our schools connect to more resources.
At this point, UrbEd is growing its student base by reaching out to schools for more student advocates and continuing to work with and monitor decisions around Philadelphia’s first locally based school board in almost two decades.
With so many things going on in the world that puts public schools at a disadvantage, seeing so many people interested and passionate about issues surrounding urban education in one room is an extremely hopeful sight for us to see. This is only the first step in a long plan for action and change, and everyone at UrbEd would love your help in any way possible! Please consider connecting with UrbEd to become part of the network we are building with other education advocacy groups. Or join us as a member and begin advocating for a quality and efficient public school education in Philadelphia. We will be better with you as part of us!
Dee Dee Risher
Mother of Luke Risher (Co-Founder of UrbEd)