Imhotep founder, ‘Mama Chris’ Wiggins, honored for educational legacy

It was a weekend of highs and lows for Imhotep Institute Charter High School founder and CEO, M. Christine “Mama Chris” Wiggins. The school’s football team — the first in the Public League to make it to the PIAA AA championship game — suffered a staggering 41-0 loss on Sunday. Just one day earlier, Wiggins was honored for her work and influence as an educator.

The Philadelphia chapter of the National Council of Negro Women presented its Mary McLeod Bethune Award to Wiggins at the organization’s annual Founder’s Day luncheon on Saturday. The event was held at the Hilton City Avenue Hotel.

Named for the NCNW founder, the award is bestowed annually in recognition of those whose work carries on Bethune’s legacy of education and civil service. Wiggins also received a City citation signed by Mayor Michael Nutter in recognition of her leadership, which was credited for having surpassed the highest standard in achievement for an educator .

“There is nobody else in this region that deserves the Mary McLeod Bethune Award more than ‘Mama’ Christine Thomas Wiggins,” said NCNW member and presenter, Vicki Redmond.

Achievements at Imhotep

Wiggins founded Imhotep in 1998 as an African-centric public high school with a focus on technology and math. The charter school, which teaches nearly 600 students, embraces the seven principals of Nguzo Saba — unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith — and those of the ancient Egyptian Ma’at, predecessor to the 10 Commandments.

Among Imhotep’s celebrated scholastic achievements is a near 100 percent graduation rate with most graduates being accepted to a post-secondary education program. Besides the impressive accomplishments of its 2013 football team, the school also boasts a champion boys basketball team and cheerleading squad.

Wiggins was previously a teacher at Martin Luther King High School and Morris E. Leeds Middle School for 12 years before founding Imhotep. Redmond praised the long-time educator as being the only African- American female in Pennsylvania to have successfully built a charter school from the ground up.

Wiggins said she was humbled by the award and cited her faith, parents and family as the reason behind her work and success. “I’m just a grain of sand in the process,” she said.

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