How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

Paul Johnson knows that it’s hard for people from the outside looking in to understand his story and his struggles. His life, he said, was never straightforward. Johnson, 26, attended and graduated from Overbrook high school and took a few college courses at the Community College of Philadelphia before dropping out. He soon took a path that led him to spending time in and out of jail before being sentenced to six months for missing court dates due to driving under the influence. Once released, he had trouble securing a job. No one really wanted to take the chance of hiring someone with a record, and he received a lot of rejections from employers after handing in his applications. Then his probation officer connected him to the PowerCorps program through the Philadelphia Water Department, where Johnson learned about the history and use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and was able to do work that included basic maintenance on drains, landscape and infrastructure work. He...
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School community gathers to condemn violence against student

School community gathers to condemn violence against student

Though the clouds hung heavy above the School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 Broad, students and teachers gathered in front of the building to rally in support of Benjamin Franklin High School student Brian Burney. Burney, a junior at Ben Franklin and member of the Philadelphia Student Union, said he was assaulted by a school police office while attempting to use the bathroom at his school. In a statement released by the union, the incident occurred when Burney left class to go use the restroom. He found that the bathrooms on the fourth and third floors were locked. On the third floor, Burney was told by school Police Officer Jeffrey Machiocha that he needed a pass in order to use the bathroom. An argument took place and Burney threw an orange against the wall. Soon after, Burney found himself in what the student union described as a choke-hold. However, School District spokesman Fernando Gallard told Philly.com that it was "clearly a restraining...
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Former Philly Gang Member on Honor, Reform and the Next Generation

Former Philly Gang Member on Honor, Reform and the Next Generation

Kevin Wilkins remembers the summer day long ago when he stared down a member of The Valley, a notorious gang that inhabited the streets of North Philadelphia in the '60s and '70s. He was around 16 at the time. The gang tested him and his peers from his North Philly neighborhood by beating them. It was a way to see if they were truly tough enough for the life ahead. Wilkins remembered his beating not being too bad. With shadows of his previous life written into his body -- a tattoo of a panther on his right arm, a lion on his left -- the former gang member does not wish to reveal his true name. I first met Wilkins a few years ago at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, an extension of the nonprofit Project HOME. Wilkins was a frequent visitor, stopping by to collect fliers about upcoming programs. North Philadelphia, where Wilkins and I both live, has gone through...
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Homeless, not hopeless: A View From the Free Library

Homeless, not hopeless: A View From the Free Library

I have never experienced the plight of homelessness, but I've seen many people throughout the streets of downtown Philadelphia who have. For the last six years, I have worked as a barista part time at the Philadelphia Free Library. I get homeless customers as well as the regular patrons of the library. Sometimes they arrive just to rest; sometimes they remain in the library all day. Nowhere else to go, I always assume. Many can be seen daily playing with electronics or eating potato chips and sandwiches from the carts outside. There are times when these unfortunate individuals will reach into their pockets and pull out a few crumpled dollars to purchase a cup of coffee from me. Sometimes I wonder what they must go through every day, what their interaction with people who deem them invisible must be. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons License "Everyone has the right right" Click here to read the rest of the story. Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalists and...
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Reflections Of A Temple Grad II

Reflections Of A Temple Grad II

I remember when walking across the stage on graduation day, just last May, and how uncertain I was about entering the “real world” with a bachelors in journalism. Would I be accepted in the field? Would I be able to obtain a job? What challenges would I be facing next? I never expected to obtain a job right out of college. It had already been explained to me and other graduates in my class over and over that obtaining a career in journalism would be somewhat slim and difficult. Most do not know that I am a barista at a café at the Free Library of Philadelphia, so I was never too worried about being unemployed out of college. People like their coffee, and I make a pretty mean cappuccino when given the chance. Still, there are times when I just want to leave the café and the smell of coffee behind for a career in my chosen field. Click here to read...
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Temple Grads Share The Fruits of Their Business With Philly Kids

Temple Grads Share The Fruits of Their Business With Philly Kids

I never imagined that I could have so much in common with a pineapple or banana before sitting down with twins Rachel and Sarah Stanton, business partners and recent graduates of Temple University. Sitting in the Fox School of Business, Sarah Stanton laid out a few of their brightly colored shirts in front of me, each one corresponding to a fruit and a personality type, which they sell through their business, Fruitstrology. With talkative grape, independent pineapple, active orange, charismatic peach, easygoing banana, ambitious coconut, smart apple, and funny pear available already, the pair are planning more options for the near future. The sisters started the business in 2013 as students, with the premise that, for each shirt sold, they would donate a piece of fruit to a child in Philadelphia. They got the idea when they saw children in north Philadelphia walking to school with potato chips and sodas in hand. They had been working with a group called Net Impact, which...
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A New Place To Call Home

A New Place To Call Home

It was twelve years ago when D.W. Wilkins first moved from New York City to Philadelphia. Upon his arrival, he had been living without medical insurance or other safeguards until learning about the services being offered at St. Elizabeth, a healthcare and recovery initiative of the Philadelphia nonprofit Project HOME. “I was taking a few computer classes in the community where I live and work,” Wilson said. “It was there that I met a young lady who told me about St. Elizabeth and that I could go there and get the care that I needed.” According to Project HOME, roughly 70 percent of households have incomes of less than $35,000 per year in the St. Elizabeth community and nearly half of adults and children live at or below the federal poverty level. The idea of having a wellness center placed in the heart of Philadelphia had first come to Sister Mary Scullion, Executive Director of Project HOME, when civic leader Stephen Klein had approached...
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Students say state’s treatment of Philadelphia schools a form of violence

Students say state’s treatment of Philadelphia schools a form of violence

Students gathered at the School District's headquarters late Thursday afternoon to participate in a "die-in" to protest the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. They also honored the death of Laporshia Massey, a Philadelphia student who died last year after suffering an asthma attack in school, where no nurse was on duty. More than 100 students and supporters took to the steps of 440 N. Broad St. to demand justice for those lost and for the unequal system of education in the Philadelphia area. They held signs and chanted phrases like "Black lives matter" and “No justice, no peace,” which have become rallying cries of protesters in the wake of recent shooting deaths of unarmed Black men and boys by White police officers. Standing with her peers, Ruby Jane Anderson, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, said she wanted to highlight the kind of institutional violence enacted on African American students...
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Summer Teaching

Summer Teaching

Can't remember if I posted this or not, but I worked on the above video for the majority of the summer while assisting with Temple University's High School summer journalism program, otherwise known as Prime Movers and Shakers. It's led by Professor Maida Odom, former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and one of my former professors. The goal of the summer program is to teach the students, who are from different Philadelphia area high schools, about journalism and the different aspects of the field in a few short weeks. At the end they produced a newspaper that is printed by the Philadelphia Daily News. This was my second time working with the program and this time my main responsibility was putting together a video of the students experience with the program. It's not the best, but I was proud in the fact that I was able to put this together after not working with FinalCut Pro for a a few...
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Documenting The Faces Of Temple

Documenting The Faces Of Temple

Pramanik created “Humans of Temple University,” which she said tells a variety of stories through pictures and short interviews as a way to showcase how diverse her peers are. Her efforts started out as way to showcase some of her own work. Pramanik began taking pictures for Humans of Temple University in January of this year, but posted the photos later in February because of what she called her hectic schedule. “Just within two weeks, I think I had around 200 followers,” Pramanik said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’” Pramanik said she has been interested in photography since high school when she took a black and white photography class. She said she loved being able to develop pictures in the school’s darkroom and manually manipulate the photos. Not being able to afford the equipment to have her own darkroom, Pramanik decided she would explore the digital realm of photography. She bought a camera and began taking pictures, posting them to her Flickr...
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