Letter to Mayor Nutter: All Philly school children need your help

    Dear Mayor Nutter: I sincerely hope that your recent finger-pointing at City Council and the school district is not because your daughter graduated already and you don’t care anymore. The students you are depriving now are going to be the students working the menial jobs in the future in nursing homes, washing and feeding you when you are old. They will remember.

    Dear Mayor Nutter,

    This past year, your daughter, Olivia, graduated from Masterman. There were secretaries on staff to help run the school office or to give Olivia an early dismissal if she needed one. There were counselors to send Olivia’s transcripts to colleges or to talk to if Olivia needed advice. There were nurses if Olivia felt sick. There were teachers who were qualified to teach in that subject and who were well educated in it. There were librarians in case Olivia wanted to read a book or needed help doing research for a project. There were a variety of extracurricular activities that Olivia could have participated in. There was security in the halls and at the front doors to make sure Olivia was safe. Olivia had everything she could possibly expect from a public school education at her fingertips, not to mention the best Philadelphia could offer in public education, given Masterman’s excellent reputation.

    I, too, was very privileged in that respect. I went to Central High School, a Masterman rival. I participated in student government, the Environmental Action Society, and where my heart still is: its robotics team, the RoboLancers. I graduated in the top 25 of my class and now attend Drexel University, where I am studying mechanical engineering.

    I was and am still so grateful for what I received, particularly from the robotics team, that I go back and mentor them nearly every day. I come from a middle-class family with not much money. If I could, I would give money to the team, but I can’t. Instead I give what I can afford to give, which is my skills, experience and time.

    As a mentor of Central’s robotics team, I get to personally know many of the students. I know that one student’s mother died when he was very young. I know that another student on the team does not have a great family life, often being tossed between parents. I also know many of the students on the team are really poor. The team fills a void for each of them—it is a constant in so many kids’ unsteady lives. The team acts as both moral and physical support, often fundraising so no one is left behind because someone cannot afford to go to a competition or team outing. 

    Without proper funding, schools will not have what they need to both educate and enrich students, and by so doing, impact the future in a good way. Your daughter Olivia is no different from any other child in the school district, except that maybe she came from a family with a little more money than most and a steady mother and father role model. Why deprive the rest of the school district’s students now? Why deprive the future?

    I sincerely hope that your recent finger-pointing at City Council and the school district is not because your daughter graduated already and you don’t care anymore. You should still care. The students you are depriving now are going to be the students working the menial jobs in the future in nursing homes, washing and feeding you when you are old. They will remember.

    The RoboLancers are in their 14th year of existence. Sadly, if the budget cuts go through, the team will be no more. The coach, Mr. Ueda, who is a Lindback Award recipient and 2013 Geek of the Year, will not be able to coach. His teaching roster will be completely reworked so that he will be teaching three new math classes (even though his specialty area is physics). He will not have time to coach the team, which he does with no salary.

    The future of STEM in Philadelphia strongly relies on the existence of our team. I am also deeply saddened, because team members will not have the robotics family they emotionally and physically rely upon for both comfort and support.

    Imagine Olivia sitting in a classroom that is clearly overcrowded trying to learn in run-down desks and chairs, with textbooks that are falling apart. Imagine there is no security at the door preventing neighborhood people, who are not good, from getting into her learning environment. Picture her getting injured in gym class, and there is no nurse to take care of her. Picture her having to do a project, and there is no library for her to go to for research. Picture her needing an early dismissal, and there are no secretaries to handle her request. Picture her needing transcripts sent to colleges, and there is no one in the counselor’s office to do that. Because her transcripts could not get sent, she can’t go to college.

    Now picture her working in McDonald’s, because she couldn’t go to college. Now replace her face with every student in the city of Philadelphia who cannot afford a private school education. If you continue to do nothing still, shame on you.

    Mary Conrad is a graduate of Central High School, a mechanical engineering and mechanics student at Drexel University, and a Central High School RoboLancers Team 321 mentor.

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