By Mark Zimmaro of The South Philly Review
There’s now a special place where their voices can be heard.
The Universal Alcorn Charter Elementary School added a fresh new musical studio, with new microphones and recording devices for students who wish to pursue different forms of media including documentaries and podcasts.
Freshly painted and recently remodeled, the Kenny Gamble Studio for Creative Visions — named after Universal Schools’ founder Kenny Gamble — is the newest addition to the old school building at 32nd and Dickinson streets in Grays Ferry.
“We have some extraordinary young scholars here and we are doing a lot of creative work with them and bringing out their educational skills, their oratorical skills and their artistic skills,” Earle Brown, executive director of Jazz Journeys, said at the Alcorn School on Oct. 12. “We’re having a really good time with this.”
The school’s scholars, who range from kindergarten to eighth grade, will have the opportunity to partake in several programs provided by Friends in Deed, a youth-driven program that trains and motivates students to serve as mentors and friends to their peers. The group utilizes the new studio for some of its programs.
Atiya Gant is a member of Friends in Deed and she contributes to a podcast along with some of her classmates that urges older people to vote.
“We’re learning how people had to struggle to get where we are today,” Gant said. “If we have the chance to vote, we should get out there and vote and tell our parents to vote because people struggled and we don’t want to waste that.”
Eighth-grader Allia Douglas agreed.
“We’re doing a podcast talking about the vote and the history of voting in America and the appreciation of what black people went through to be able to vote,” she said. “It’s very important that people go out and vote.”
Others like Garry Joseph help behind the scenes working cameras and directing the crews. Malachi Randolph is a voice on the podcasts. They all have the same message.
“We’re trying to tell people how important it is to vote and what black people have gone through so we can have that right to vote,” Randolph said. “People need to know the history so we are able to do the things that we do today.”
Encouraging voter participation is just one goal of Friends in Deed. Other missions involve helping their peers with homework assignments, tutoring and engaging in safe activities after school.
“The skills and the knowledge sets that they are learning are in addition to what they are learning here at the school,” said Charles Abel, of Friends in Deed. “It gets them occupied and gets them involved so that when school is out, they are looking at their futures as opposed to the gun violence. They are not involved with that. They are too involved with too many other positive things, and their futures are very bright.”
And they have a wonderful new room to strengthen those skills. Highlighted by artwork from eight-grade student Yves Verneus, who worked on the painting with his art teacher, the walls are bright and colorful with inspirational designs from Verneus.
“It came out a lot better than I thought,” Verneus said with a smile. “I’m proud of it. I like what I see. I think it’s going to be a wonderful journey for everyone.”