MLK High hosts back-to-school block party to build bridge to community

Community members joined with students and their families to enjoy barbecue food, music and more at Martin Luther King High School’s back-to-school block party Wednesday afternoon.

“We do this every year,” said William Wade, who is entering his second school year as principal of MLK. “We want to give information to the community about some great local programs that are going on. Our students can learn how to get involved with our school clubs and sports. It’s a fun day for everyone.”

An array of information tables including school clubs, athletics, face painting, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), National Honor Society, Settlement Music School, Weavers Way Co-op and the Philadelphia Canoe Club were set up at the school.

So was MLK alum Christopher Ford, who attended the event touting a line of men’s designer ties from his company, Christopher Charles Apparel.

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“I loved being here,” admitted Ford. “I was on the football team, track, drama club. I was popular; I loved talking to everybody. It was a great experience.”

New school-year goals

Several students who attended the event said they were eager to start the new school year on Friday, the Philadelphia School District’s first-day back.

“This year, I’m excited to keep doing JROTC, volleyball and teen court,” said sophomore-to-be Lisa Bailey, who spent her summer vacation at the school helping with the MLK STE2AM program which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. “I helped them build an underwater [remotely operated vehicle].”

Rising senior Darnell Moore said that his focus is getting his grades up so that he can attend the University of Connecticut in 2013.

“I’m really focused on my academics this year,” said Moore, “and I’m really excited to be a senior.”

For the community

Amira Strong-Nor, who teaches social studies teacher at the school, helped organize the event along with counselor Paula Crawford and assistant principal Tim Spencer.

“We want to bring the community into the school and get the word out about all of the wonderful things we’re doing here,” said Strong-Nor. “We invited services that our community needs.”

One of those services was Equal Dollars, a community currency system in which volunteer hours can be used to buy groceries and prescription drugs.

“It’s a great program,” said Richard Dejesus, creator of Richard and Friends: United in the Community. “We love working with them.”

Dejesus’ group, which works to feed the hungry all throughout the city from its Venango Street base, donated the food for the event.

“Every Monday I give out food,” said Dejesus, who worked the grill at the block party.

Open gridiron invitation

Jim Humphreys, the Stenton Avenue high school’s assistant varsity football coach, said that kids who live in the neighborhood are invited to join the football team if their school doesn’t already have a team in place.

“Kids from local charter schools like Hope and West Oak Lane can come play football for us,” explained Humphreys, who said he has noticed declining enrollment as more families opt for charter schools. “We have a great enthusiasm here for our team.”

Alphonso Stevenson, who coaches the JV squad, added that team recruitment is “up this year” and growing more interest.

“We want to put together a great team of young men and get them involved with their community,” said Stevenson.

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