‘We cannot lose on this’: Roxborough High School receives security funding

Meredith Elizalde pleads for the greater Philly community to be more proactive in combatting gun violence. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

Meredith Elizalde pleads for the greater Philly community to be more proactive in combatting gun violence. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

Working on a solution to gun violence and want to share it? Get in touch with gun violence prevention reporters Sammy Caiola and Sam Searles.

City and state lawmakers gathered at Roxborough High School Tuesday, announcing a $500,000 grant to increase security. The school was the site of a targeted shooting just under two weeks ago, which took the life of 14-year-old Nicolas Elizalde .

Lawmakers, including State Sen. Vincent Hughes and State Rep. Pam DeLissio, denounced gun violence, and urged a collective approach to prevent further shootings. State Rep. Malcom Kenyatta said that the day was not a cause for celebration.

“The $500,000 that we were able to secure from The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which will go to security enhancement, is the bare minimum that we can do,” he said. “What we’re doing here today, as important as it is, won’t do what I know we all want to be able to do: to go in a time machine and to not lose Nicolas to senseless violence.”

Pa. State Rep. Malcom Kenyatta begins the press conference. (Sam Searles/WHYY)
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Elizalde’s mother, Meredith Elizade, called for prayers and action. “We are failing our kids. We are failing ourselves. And we have to do better. We’re in a state of emergency. We’re in a war. And no one has the luxury of riding the bench,” she said. “My son is not even the most recent child murdered in this city.”

Meredith Elizalde (center), mother of Nicolas Elizalde, is comforted by Sen. Hughes while her mother and Philadelphia schools superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington look on. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

Elizalde added that the funds in Roxborough were “touching,” but that every child should have a safe school environment. “I want an equitable distribution of funding,” she said. “I’m very happy to see what Roxborough is receiving … but your zip code does not determine your worth.”

DeLissio said that school funding for updates hasn’t been distributed equitably. “The current budget year that we’re in passed a historic budget as it pertains to basic public education. It’s historic, but it’s not as equitable as it should be,” she said. “Six years after the fair funding formula, only 20% of the basic public education appropriation is driven out through [it]. We will never reach equity if we keep going along those lines.”

State Rep. Pam DeLissio argues for better distribution of school funding. (Sam Searles/WHYY)
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Kristin Williams-Smalley, Roxborough High’s principal, answered questions, including whether or not the $500,000 was enough. “The short answer is no, it’s not enough,” she said. “But we’re grateful for what we do have … I’m just one school. There are schools across this city that need the types of enhancements that we are now getting. And it shouldn’t have to come to this … grief and this loss for us to get it.”

”It shouldn’t have to come to this,” says Roxborough High School’s principal, Kristin Williams-Smalley.

The $500,000 in funding will be used to install cameras, update door locks, and improve Roxborough High’s 100-year-old building to be more secure. The suspects in the shooting have yet to be caught.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.

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Sam Searles is a Report for America corps member covering gun violence and prevention for WHYY News.

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