You’ve heard the refrains. Philly schools are broken. Our kids aren’t thriving. Educators, families and communities struggle to meet the needs of students living in a city with a 22.3 percent poverty rate, too much gun violence, a heartbreaking opioid epidemic, a shortage of mental health resources, and pervasive systemic racism. The situation is overwhelming. How to help Philly students?
You could go out on your own and do it. If that’s your preference, here’s our guide on how to support Philly schools, teachers, and students.
Or, you can hook up with any of our city’s diverse organizations already doing the work. These Philly groups support students in their journeys to better literacy, STEM, civics, the arts and overall education. Here, how to help students in Philadelphia, through the people who are already doing that work.
EDUCATION AND ADVOCACY
These organizations meet Philly students where they are — schools — to provide holistic educational tools, resources and opportunities.
Operating in 150 schools nationwide — including two in Philly — Big Picture Learning uses an innovative learning model that focuses on small groups, close relationships between students and educators, and real-world education through internships. Donate here.
Congreso works to transform the lives of individuals and families in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Philadelphia by moving them up the economic ladder and ultimately out of poverty. It focuses on education and employment, simultaneously providing supportive services in health, housing, and parenting necessary to guarantee successful outcomes. Donate here.
EducationWorks re-engages disengaged young adults in education and career readiness throughout Greater Philadelphia. They provide over 12,000 kids with the tools they need to succeed in school and in life by focusing on themes such as reading, science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, and social emotional learning. Donate here.
Philadelphia Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that helps Philadelphia public schools by providing internet-ready computers in classrooms and public spaces. They also assist in the purchase of books for school libraries, the provision of computers to low-income families who do not have them, and the teaching of 3D printing and computer literacy workshops. Donate here.
This group, formerly known as Public Citizens for Children and Youth, works throughout the state. Here in Philly, Children First focuses on campaigning for universal pre-K. Donate here.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is a 501(c)3 non-profit that acts as a fiscal middleman between the private sector and the Philadelphia public school system. They discover, organize, and connect philanthropic resources to drive investments in local public schools through effective public-private partnerships. Donate here.
By offering resources and skills that pave the way for college and professional success, the Philadelphia Education Fund ensures that all students have equal access to opportunities. All young people in Philadelphia should have the skills and opportunities to excel in college and in their careers, according to their vision. Donate here.
The Urban Affairs Coalition is home to more than 80 member nonprofits in the Greater Philadelphia area, which UAC supports through fiscal sponsorship, shared services, program development, and capacity building. Donate here.
The ever-growing fields of science, technology, engineering and math don’t just need more smart workers. They need driven, diverse innovators that these organizations are helping to grow.
Longtime BioEYES instills a love of life sciences in students by giving them chances to learn science in the real world. The organization provides training and materials to educators so they can create individualized curricula that imagines science education beyond the classroom. Donate here.
Black Girls Love Math (BGLM)
Longtime educator Atiyah Harmon founded this K-12 after-school and Saturday Slam program to help boost Black girls’ comfort and confidence in their math skills — and eventually increase Black women’s representation in STEM fields. BGLM serves 300 Philly girls every year.
Sylvester Mobley founded Coded by Kids to teach Philly students ages 8 to 18 the basics of software development, digitial design, programming and entrepreneurship. The program’s goal: Launch students from communities that are underrepresented in tech into successful careers in the industry. Donate.
READING AND WRITING
Philadelphia’s literacy rate continues to lag behind. These organizations inspire Philadelphia students to read, write, and be confident.
Born at Penn, expanding nationally, this nonprofit trains and employs college students to teach students to create their own stories based on topics the kids are interested in. Cosmic Writers‘ creative writing workshops take place at rec centers, in schools, and virtually, during the school year and over the summer. Donate here.
Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit that promotes the benefits of reading to young children on a daily basis and engaging in other language-rich activities. They reach 4.5 million children across the country through routine check-ups, and a network of pediatric professionals to offer families with the knowledge and tools they need to make reading a daily habit. Donate here.
This nonprofit works with pre-K to fifth grade teachers to improve early reading and writing. Their mission: Close the literacy performance gap between Philly and wealthier places. Donate here.
Think clearly and write with clarity has served as Mighty Writer’s elevator pitch and mission statement since their launch in 2009. The organization has locations throughout the region where kids can attend writing workshops, meet with mentors, and go after school to work on reading, writing, and homework. Donate here.
Reading Recycled aims to improve children’s access to reading through three main programs: Sidewalk Libraries, which staff and community members keep stocked with books for kids to borrow; the Book Bank, from which educators receive up to 375 books per year for a $25 annual membership fee; and Community Corner, which helps local community organizations add literacy elements into their existing programs. Donate here.
Spells Writing Lab believes that literacy is a cornerstone for future success, and that personalized attention and unconventional learning opportunities can inspire students to greater triumphs, both in the classroom and in life. Donate here.
Youths who participate in community life and local governments are destined to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Since its launch in 2015, this nonpartisan tool has allowed learners of all ages to engage with the text of the Constitution, discover how experts agree and disagree about its history and meaning, and explore arguments on all sides of the constitutional debates at the center of American life. Donate here.
Philly Youth Vote is a nonpartisan group of educators and community activists working to ensure that every 18-year-old in Philadelphia votes on Election Day. Donate here.
Access to all kinds of arts has dwindled for Philadelphia students. These groups are helping to connect students with their creative side, helping them learn self-expression, discipline, skills and even entrepreneurship.
Lil Filmmakers Inc.’s purpose is to prepare young underprivileged artists for careers in the arts and media sector by teaching them how to use media and the arts to overcome societal and personal limitations. Donate here.
Musicopia is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving school music programs in the Greater Philadelphia area, ensuring that all children in underserved schools have access to music education. Donate here.
Since 2011, this nonprofit has served hundreds of Philly students who otherwise would likely go without musical education. Based in schools and outside schools, Play On Philly loans out orchestra instruments, offers free group and private instruction, and gives students opportunities to perform. Donate here.
Philadelphia Orchestra principal bassist Joseph Conyers brought Project 440 to Philadelphia to establish music as a growth opportunity for kids who are into music. The nonprofit’s programs teach kids to combine music with community service and entrepreneurship, and open up pathways to higher ed. Donate here.
JOB TRAINING AND LIFE SKILLS
These groups specifically target teens, helping them grow confidence, build communication skills, and get paid now, and down the line.
Hopeworks’ programs in Camden, NJ and Kensington reach older students, ages 17 to 26, who are most at risk for giving up on their education. Not only does the organization train young people to work in tech. They also connect them with employers who are hiring. Support their work.
The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) develops systemic solutions to close gaps in youth-serving institutions, trains youth-serving organizations to deliver programs that promote academic and career preparedness, and engages employers and system leaders to make sure youth are prepared to enter the workforce.
Fab Youth Philly does a whole lot for teens — and students of all ages. The org employs teens as Play Captains to connect with children on the city’s summertime Play Streets. They also help teens get job-ready and teach other orgs how to better engage with and teach youth. Donate here.
MORE ON HOW TO HELP PHILADELPHIA STUDENTS
Local educator Atiyah Harmon, founder and executive director of Black Girls Love Math, surrounded by students before a math session at the St. James School in North Philadelphia. Photo by Johann Calhoun