Coalition Supports “Pepper Partners in Pride” Proposal to Keep Pepper School Open

The Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) joins Eastwick Action Committee (EAC), the Friends of Heinz Refuge (FOHR), Southwest Multiplex Community Plaza (SWMCP), US Fish & Wildlife Service (US FWS), Pepper Middle School Administration and many other supporters, as a Pepper Partner in Pride, advocating Pepper School to remain open.

EFNC recognizes that Pepper School is a vital educational resource for Eastwick, and an anchor amidst a lack of community social institutions.  Within a safe, expansive, well-equipped facility, Pepper currently serves over 400 5th through 8th grade students, of which over 80% live below poverty level.

EFNC supports the Pepper Partners in Pride proposal for the transformation of the George Wharton Pepper Middle School into a shared facility that includes Pepper Middle School, a STEM high school for environmental sciences and sustainability, and a community-learning center for adult education.  The plan leverages existing partnerships and resources to provide the best environment for learners regardless of age and ability.

This proposal, “Nurturing Healthy and Sustainable Environments, Communities, Schools and People,” represents an historic vision and opportunity to provide underserved students of Southwest Philadelphia with a profound, science-focused academic curriculum for students in grades 5 through 12, as well as after-school, adult education.

Pepper’s future is anchored by successful partnerships that have been developed and sustained over the last 8 years, and the 1,000 acre living laboratory of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, located in Pepper’s backyard.  Current, cooperative programming between Pepper Middle School and FOHR, FWS, SWMCP, Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative and dedicated volunteers, has facilitated tremendous growth and achievement among Pepper students.  Highlights include the Rebel Gardeners program, fifth grade science classes at Heinz Refuge and a healthy nutrition initiative.

Pepper Middle School students explore John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Pepper Middle School students explore John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Eastwick’s location in the far southwest corner of Philadelphia presents unique opportunities for place-based learning in sustainability and environmental sciences.  Proximity to the Heinz Refuge, Lower Darby Creek Watershed, Eastwick Community Garden, and Pepper’s own on-site orchard and vegetable garden provides unparallelled access to living laboratories that cannot be re-located.

Rebel Gardeners from Pepper Middle School.

Rebel Gardeners from Pepper Middle School.

EFNC requests the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to seize this historic opportunity to keep Pepper School open, and implement the Pepper Partners in Pride Proposal, thereby advancing the potential for thousands of urban youth to grow into environmental leaders, professionals, and scientists.  These roles are critically important, as we collectively confront the challenges of climate change, energy efficiency, economic and social sustainability in the community of Eastwick, and society at-large.

Click here to download a copy of the Pepper Partners in Pride proposal, including Letters of Support, that was submitted to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on February 6, 2013.  (PDF document).

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