Last fall, we launched our second Integrity Icon contest, to identify the most principled, hardworking, service-oriented city workers in Philadelphia. After vetting the nominations, we sent a shortlist to our group of judges, who picked five incredible winners to be Philadelphia’s 2022 Integrity Icons.
One of those is Leah Wood, a paraprofessional at Feltonville Arts & Sciences.
As a paraprofessional, Wood was described as an innovative educator in a North Philly middle school, who demonstrates integrity by, among other things, being willing to admit mistakes and urging her students to do the same through a method she learned in a previous job at Burger King: L.A.S.T. (listen, apologize, satisfy, and thank).
But Wood has elevated the role of paraprofessional beyond the classroom. She’s one of the founding members of “Para Power,” which organizes around salary issues and working conditions; she is credited with helping to raise awareness of the needs of paraprofessionals in the teachers union, and fighting for their dignity—particularly during the pandemic.
She has also mentored colleagues—mostly Black and Brown women—to help them get college degrees, developing relationships on their behalf with Community College of Philadelphia and Holy Family University.
For all of this, the judges saw in Wood a true voice for change.
“One poem from high school I always remember is “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and that’s what I always think of,” she says. “Being who you are, not trying to show off and being honest.”
MEET THE OTHER INTEGRITY ICON 2022 WINNERS
MEET THE LAST CROP OF PHILLY INTEGRITY ICON WINNERS