stack of newspapers
1500 N Broad, Academic, Burk Mansion

1500 N Broad: Newspaper

An April 5, 1984 article in the Philadelphia Daily News reported and advertised a community program addressing literacy in the city:

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Five centers to train illiterate, unemployed city residents to read were opened yesterday in a program sponsored by the School District and two area colleges. The one-year program, Centers for Literacy in the City, is financed by a $333,000 federal grant and is administered by the state through the Job Training and Partnership Act. An estimated 540,000 city residents over age 16 are functionally illiterate – unable to read above a fourth-grade level. The five centers hope to enroll nearly 1,300 adults at one time in a variety of classes taught by retired public school teachers. The tuition-free classes will provide both adult basic education and general education courses, depending on the ability levels of registrants. The centers are operated by the district, Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia. To be eligible for admission, applicants must be city residents, at least 19 years old, lack a high school diploma and be unemployed…

After completing the program, which will not provide diplomas, students will be eligible for job-training programs offered by the city’s Office of Employment and Training.

Gonzalez, Juan. “ILLITERATES GET HELP ON READING.” Philadelphia Daily News, Apr 05, 1984.

For me, this article was a reminder that Temple used 1500 N Broad to engage with and benefit the community on multiple levels. As a daycare, it enabled people who otherwise wouldn’t go to college to go and get the education they wanted. It provided childcare options for the public, in a city where childcare could (and still can) be difficult and expensive to secure. It also was a site of education itself – training for the daycare workers, early education for the children enrolled – including a kindergarten – and programs like this literacy class which provided opportunities for Philadelphians to come and benefit from Temple’s resources without needing access to tuition.

Temple could be a gateway again for the under-served North Philadelphia neighborhood. It could provide access to things like affordable childcare, community education, and public health. But as another, more recent article implies, the local community’s trust in Temple’s willingness to act benevolently has been stretched to its limit. The assumption among residents is that any Temple projects with community benefit aspects are just thinly veiled attempts to garner support for the construction of a football stadium. And perhaps this is true. It’s disheartening to see that residents of North Philly have been so betrayed by Temple’s aggressive expansion that even a genuinely well-intentioned project, like one we might hope to undertake at 1500 N Broad, would likely be met with flat refusal.

It would take a lot for Temple to rebuild trust with its neighbors. Publicly scrapping the football stadium plans would be step one, but a glance through Temple’s history tells me that’s unlikely. Projects like the ones we’ve proposed for 1500 N Broad, and like the childcare center and dentist office, built on sites Temple already owns, and built in a way that makes them accessible and inviting, will only benefit a community that isn’t wary of Temple’s motivations. There is so much potential for Temple to be a driving force behind local improvement, done well and with input from the right people, with an eye toward avoiding displacement and providing North Philadelphians with real opportunities. Embarking on community-oriented projects would give Temple students the chance to engage with the people they share a neighborhood with – solving real-world problems, acting as advocates and liaisons, providing educational opportunities, and learning practical applications for what they’re doing in the classroom. There are good and meaningful ways to attract students to a university. 1500 N Broad could be a hub, a cornerstone for that kind of work – it has the history.

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