Unsung hero: Youth advocate Shelah Harper

    With so much talk about Flash mobs this summer, it’s hard to focus on the positive aspects of young people.

    Shelah Harper, a life long resident of the Germantown area, is still a firm believer in the promise of young people in the community. She is committed to shedding a positive light on youth and helping guide them away from the kind of violence that is so often a factor in their lives. 

    Harper’s commitment came out of a personal tragedy. On November 7, 2004 her only child, Asia Melanie Adams, was the victim of deadly dating violence. For three years, Harper struggled  to come to terms with her daughter’s death. At the same she also pondered ways to prevent this kind of violence from happening to other young women. 

    With those thoughts in mind, Harper started the Asia Adams Save OUR Children Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in northwest Philadelphia. The foundation’s mission is to “empower children and youth (ages 4-24) to build healthy productive lives through education, advocacy and support”. They also encourage youth, particularly girls and young women, to improve their self-esteem.

    Some of Shelah Harper’s work with her foundation includes administering a girl’s mentoring program for teens from Germantown High School, community work in Nicetown and speaking engagements. The foundation operates on a shoestring budget, but the lack of funding does not effect the commitment to achieving ther goals. She admits that, “Sometimes it becomes overwhelming, but this is my life and this is my passion.”

    That passion drives Harper to continue to be a community advocate.  Besides working with the foundation, Harper has also worked been supporting and advocating for community health for over 25 years

    Zuri Stone, a resident of West Oak Lane and graduate student at West Chester University has seen the positive effects of the work that Harper does in the community . Zuri believes, “Ms. Shelah has a battery instilled in her that will last a lifetime and will never die out until every child is free from teen dating violence.” Despite financial hardships, The Asia Adams Foundation has been able to serve over 5,000 youth since it was first started in 2007. They are pressing forward and focusing on the future. They are currently planning the 1st annual “Love Speaks for ME” benefit. It will be on held Saturday October 22nd, 6:00-8:00 PM at the Kurtz Performing Arts Center at the William Penn Charter School. 

    Harper, who has an MBA with a concentration in Health and Human Services, was recently awarded a grant with the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing to do a study on the relationship between teen dating violence and economic factors facing youth, particularly in the Germantown and Nicetown area. At the corner of Germantown and Haines street there is a mural in honor of Asia Adams and the Foundation itself. The mural, created through the city’s Mural Arts Program, uses shades of purple to represent violence against girls. 

    We would like to recognize Shelah as she continues to advocate and fight for young people.

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