Click on the link or scroll down the page to the participant information
Widener Partnership Charter School (WPCS)
Located in the city of Chester, Pennsylvania, WPCS was founded in September 2006 after several years of work between Widener University and the community, in response to a long history of poor educational outcomes for Chester children. In 1994 the district was taken over by the State, but despite the transfer of administrative control to the State, the district continued to rank near the bottom of state school districts, for example, over half of 5th graders had reading scores that were below basic. A third of the 9th grade students who start Chester high school do not graduate there; that rate is 40% higher than the comparable rate in the state of Pennsylvania as a whole (about 20%).
All of the children at WPCS live in the city of Chester; and 69% of our students are eligible for Free/Reduced lunches. The school currently has an enrollment of 200 Kindergarten through 3rd grade students. As a new school, each year we have been adding new students through the Kindergarten class, with current students going on to the next grade. This fall grade 4 was added and has an enrollment of 250; we will reach our anticipated full enrollment of about 300 in grades K-5 in academic year 2010-11.
The city of Chester, where the school is located, has suffered economic and social decline for over five decades. Once a vibrant and diverse city with a broad industrial base, Chester was affected by economic changes in the post World War II era, and lost 32 percent of its jobs between the 1950’s and the 1980’s. During those years, the City’s economic base collapsed, the tax base shrank, and much of the middle class moved out of the community. Chester is several years into a fiscal recovery plan under Pennsylvania Act 47, a program to assist the efforts of fiscally distressed municipalities toward economic and fiscal recovery. Nevertheless, most of the community’s social indicators are among the lowest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For example, over the last several years, Chester has had the highest crime rate in the State. In 2006, Chester reported 3138.3 violent index crimes, including fifteen homicides and 854 aggravated assaults. The State’s violent crime index for the same period was 750.9 (Pennsylvania State Police, 2007). Chester’s children are at high risk of poor outcomes, not only in terms of their education but indeed their overall life prospects.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the wildlife refuge at Tinicum was created as a result of community activism that led to an act of Congress in 1972 and established the refuge to “Preserve and protect what remains of Tinicum Marsh, to provide wildlife viewing and recreation, and environmental education opportunities to the American public.”
The 1,000-acre refuge contains six habitats: freshwater tidal marsh, freshwater tidal creek, fields, forests, marshy pond, and temporary wetlands, which provide habitat for thousands of different plants and animals throughout the year. The diversity of these habitats in a concentrated area make it a natural magnet for all forms of wildlife, including a wide variety of fish species - brown bullhead, channel catfish, crappie, carp and small striped bass that use the wider expanses of the creek just before its confluence with the Delaware River, in the earlier stages of their development. Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and 300 species of birds, along with a wide variety plants can be found there. The open fields and meadows provide habitat for a wide array of insects, including several butterfly species that forage among dozens of species of wildflowers.
The refuge is open to the public year-round and maintains ten miles of walking/biking trails, a canoe trail, fishing areas, wildlife observation platforms, and photo blinds. The Cusano Environmental Education Center serves as the gateway to the refuge trails, informing the public about the refuge and the mission of the USFWS. The Heinz Nature Center is nestled in an urban setting, located less than five miles from the Charter school in Chester, and adjacent to the Philadelphia International Airport. The Refuge is actively collaborating in this project. It has had a relationship with the Charter School for the past XXX years. The Friends of Heinz (name?) have given grants to the school on several occasions to support its environmental education efforts.
Atwell's Educational Institute (AEI): This school was born twenty-four years when the mother of the current principal declared that she had enough grandchildren to start a school, beginning the chain of events that led to the school’s establishment. Atwell’s mission, grown from a family’s values and commitment to their children, is to foster wholesome individuals who exhibit academic excellence along with moral and civil behaviors. Acknowledging the different learning styles and abilities of students AEI exposes their students to a variety of academic, sporting, and cultural activities.
Today, AEI is counted among Trinidad’s leaders in primary education. Students have received national acclaim in: Mental Marathon (first place winner), President Medals in Science, Secondary Assessment Examination Achievers (at least one annually), Spelling Bee winners, Gasparilla Classic Gymnastic Tournament gold medalist, Primary Schools hockey champions, record-breaking Cyclists, Music Festival Winners, Easter Bonnet Parade winners, Chamber Music Duet winners, and various competitions in the Arts.
Even though many of Atwell’s students come from homes of professional parents, the student community reflects a mixture of economic circumstances. Atwell’s recognizes the need for all children to obtain the best education, and has offered scholarships to needy students who show potential for success in the school’s atmosphere. Some of Atwell’s students reside at the country’s oldest Orphanage – St. Mary’s Children’s Home, another partner in this proposal.
Though AEI faculty and staff are proud of their accomplishments, they also lament that their children do not really know about their environment or the ecological principles that undergird any healthy ecosystem. Though AEI students can pass tests, science is an inanimate and distant discipline, only a means to an end – passing national exams. The principal, one of the original founders of the school, wants science to “come alive” for her students and her teachers.
St. Mary's Children's Home (http://www.smchttt.org):
The History of the St. Mary’s Children’s Home dates back to the year 1857. Then known as the “Coolie Orphanage Asylum,” it was established in response to a grave human need resulting from the awakening of the social consequences of three men who had had connections with the Orange Grove Estates in the district of Tacarigua. A Scotsman, William H. Burnley, in the absentee-proprietor of the Estates had appointed Mr. William Eccles as his attorney, while the Rev. Mr. Richards (Anglican) served as resident missionary. It was Rev. Mr. Richards who identified the plight of orphaned, indentured East Indian, immigrant children who had earlier arrived in Trinidad in 1845. He and Mr. Eccles finally succeeded in persuading Mr. Burnley to construct a building to house the orphans. That building was erected on the spot where the girl’s Dorm still stands.
The first residents, nine orphaned children, took up residence there on 2nd June, 1857, when the institution was formally inaugurated. Evolving through several socio-economic phases which characterized the course of history, the institution has moved from Asylum through Orphanage and Orphanage-Home to its present status of Children’s Home – even though its official title remains the “Tacarigua Orphanage.” No longer do orphans constitute any significant percentage of residents. In fact, any child under age of 12 years needing care “care and protection” can find a home here. The official legal age limit for residents of the Home is 16 years. The population of the Home is currently 108 (49 girls and 59 boys).
One of the main purposes of the Home has always been to provide and maintain, for its residents, the best possible care and services, so as to ensure that:
1. Children in residence are given every opportunity for personal growth and development through the acquisition of proper attitudes, values, skills, and knowledge; and
2. Upon leaving the Home, children are adequately equipped with the basic societal and vocational skills which will enable them to adjust appropriately to “life” in any community in which they find themselves.
Nestling at the foot of the Northern Range, the Home is located on 25 acres of flat arable land bisected in part by the Tacarigua River, and bounded on the south by the Eastern Main Rd from which access is had leading to lovely flower gardens, shaded lawns, a large paved courtyard and a silver painted fountain, all of which add aesthetically to the ambience of the Home. A number of imposing buildings which house the dormitories, a primary school, dining halls, trades and music shops, a cultural hall, administrative block, and (up to 1980, the Manager’s residence) constitutes the physical infrastructure of the Home. St. Mary’s is within walking distance of Atwell’s Educational Institute and has a long standing partnership in which AEI provides scholarships to St. Mary’s children. The administrations of both institutions are currently in the process of developing closer ties as they work toward the utilization of resources that might be shared between the two, i.e., transportation, internet access, outdoor learning environments.
The home is financed by a substantial grant of an Annual Subvention from Government, via the appointed Ministry. The main source of revenue amounts to 75% of the cost of running of the Home. In fact, the Subvention is eaten up by payment of emoluments to staff: about 82%, while the remainder takes care-albeit inadequately-of goods and services. To this end, funds derived from public ventures, as well as donations, deed of covenant and benevolence of sympathetic corporate citizens, well wishers and NGO’s help to support the Home.
Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC)
(http://www.asawright.org): Established in 1967 by a group of naturalists and bird-watchers, the Centre is a non-profit trust managed by a 21-member Board Directors, which includes international representatives. The mission of the organization is
“To preserve a part of the Arima Valley in its natural state; to create a conservation and study area; and to protect the wildlife thereon for the enjoyment and benefit of all persons of this and succeeding generations.”
One of the first nature centers to be established in the Caribbean, the Centre is primarily a tropical mid-montane forest environment in the mountain valleys of Arima and Aripo in Trinidad. The Nature Centre was initially established on 193 acres of land that had been a cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation. Over time, the plantation was no longer profitable, and eventually the Wrights purchased the Spring Hill estate in the late 1940s. At about the same time, Dr. William Beebe, the first curator of birds at New York’s Bronx Zoo, purchased nearby land and established the Simla Estate. Asa Wright was a native of Iceland who loved nature, and Dr. Beebe and Mrs. Wright developed a cordial relationship based on their mutual love of nature. After their deaths, that relationship culminated in the merger of Simla and Spring Hill in 1975 when the New York Zoological Society entrusted its 240-acre holding, inherited from Dr. Beebe, to the management of AWNC.
In the past four decades, the Nature Centre’s land holdings have increased exponentially, to over 1500 acres. The original estate has been partly reclaimed by secondary forest, and is surrounded by impressive rainforest, where some original climax forest on the steeper slopes have a canopy of 100-150 feet, producing the effect of being deep in tropical rainforest. The continental origin and proximity of Trinidad to South America, as well as a multiplicity of habitats, have resulted in an unusually diverse fauna. A special attraction on the property is a breeding colony of the nocturnal Oilbird. Located in a beautiful riparian grotto, it is perhaps the most easily accessible colony known for this remarkable species. The World Wildlife Fund made a substantial contribution toward the establishment of the Centre in order to protect this colony.
The AWNC concentrates its efforts in three areas: Education, Conservation, and Ecotourism. It is now widely recognized as one of the most successful ecotourism stories in the world, though conservation remains its priority. The organization maintains an education unit, lodge facilities, and the William Beebe Tropical Research Station, also known as Simla.
Widener University (http://www.widener.edu): Widener is an innovative metropolitan university that combines academic quality with career preparation and a commitment to community service. A Widener education connects curricula to societal issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience.
A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener offers liberal arts and sciences and professional programs leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, serve some 6,500 students.
Widener’s main campus is located in Chester, 14 miles south of Center City Philadelphia. Most Widener students come from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and most alumni remain in the region after they graduate, serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area professionally, and contributing to the social, economic, and civic welfare of the region.