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Stanton supporter's reflections on community organizing

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This guest blog post comes from Gerri Graves, a member of Supporters of Stanton.


  • photo 20of 20stanton 20grandma

We have called ourselves SOS from the beginning. Supporters of Stanton. You can take SOS a few ways. Supporters of Stanton, Save Our School, and, yes, also S.O.S. as a distress signal: "Come on everybody, something good for our children is threatened. E. M. Stanton School, our school, a good school is being bombarded. Someone wants to sink it."

Everybody did step up. Our work together was not based on how high your education was. People came up with the ideas, great and small, and we would say, “Wow, that’s great, I forgot all about that. That’s a great idea.” I knew a lot before working on this effort, but I learned so much more about the educational process – AYP and SPI and the NCLB Act.

I could not have told you six months ago much of anything about the School District of Philadelphia other than what the School District doesn’t do. The SOS group crossed over boundaries and potential divisions. We bonded to work for a common goal. We all contributed. Everyone’s talents were respected and utilized. There were no cultural or educational or “who you knew “ kind of divides.

People are still working together for a good cause.

I have had a great learning experience participating in SOS. We have made friendships. We all agree to agree. I have been in other organizations where if you have an argument, that was the end of the discussion. But this is a caring group of people. Meeting every Sunday is part of my commitment to keeping this school open. It makes me feel so good to know that somebody cares – somebody cares about something.

I really care about E. M. Stanton.

I know that regardless of what’s going on in life – I should and must be investing in education. Philadelphia won’t be able to compete as a city if it doesn’t give our children a solid educational foundation. How can Philadelphia survive if our young people don’t have a firm foundation? Taxes are paid to ensure this happens. It is a social injustice to the children if you would even consider closing a high-performing school.

I have learned the inner workings of our great school: the parents, the teachers, the Bainbridge House and all the opportunities it gives the kids in the arts. The community inside Stanton helps our kids have different kinds of experiences. Violins, Shakespeare, dance, drumming, choral singing, and more.

At E. M. Stanton, children can experience new things. My grandson played golf in the 2nd grade. This is a school where students release their hidden talent. There is a lot missing in so many of our schools and neighborhoods. The Stanton Cultural Arts program has given much to our children. The students are always engaged so they don’t become enraged. Our children need the opportunity of being offered a college scholarship for more than playing football or basketball.

My grandson, Nagee, is an 8th grader who applied to several special admissions high schools and hopes to attend Science Leadership Academy. He overheard me writing this guest blog. Nagee and the children of the other SOSers, half of whom are Stanton students now and half of whom plan on being students when they reach school age, are also at our Sunday night meetings. We are in the front room and they are in the back room watching TV, doing homework, and playing games. When I asked him what he had observed over all these months he said, "That you will all not stop – that you are enthusiastic and persistent activists for the students, parents, staff, and teachers of E. M. Stanton School."

Before SOS, my interaction with E. M. Stanton was only based on my grandson and whether he was participating in a particular arts-sharing event or not. Now, all of that has changed. I have built a real relationship with the secretary – now the secretary knows me as more than Nagee’s grandmother. I have become acquainted with the teachers in all grades. Children recognize me in the market. I had the pleasure of observing children at play in the kindergarten class. I have made new friends that feel to me like they will last a lifetime.

Working with SOS, helping the effort to keep the school open has given me opportunities. I’m retiring after 33 years with the federal government. My new job? A mentor at E. M. Stanton in September 2012.

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