We, the students at Overbrook High School (OHS), have been working to improve our school for the last two years. This is because we love our school, and we feel like students have to take responsibility for making it better. We have been organizing students to come to school on time and attend their classes, meeting with district officials, elected officials, and community members who are all as committed as we are in transforming our school to educate each and every one of us for our future. But the road has not been easy.
One of our school administrators sponsored us for a few months last year and provided a first floor classroom inside of OHS so students could meet. We held many productive meetings where we talked about our education and how we, the students, can reclaim our education. It wasn’t long before we were told we were no longer allowed to meet in the building and were forced to organize down the street at the neighborhood playground. The neighborhood playground is not a safe place for youth or anybody to be. So why are we forced to organize there? We and our many parents would prefer us being inside of the school building.
On October 14, 2009 we attended an SRC meeting where we spoke with Dr. Arlene Ackerman about getting a room inside of the building to meet, where students can feel safe and secure. She said she understood and promised to talk to our principal about it. Since then we have met with several other district officials seeking their help, but we are still waiting as of this writing.
On November 3, 2009, we were invited by Mr. Will Mega, who is running for State Representative of Pennsylvania’s 192nd Legislative District, on a tour around the Wynnefield, Overbrook & Lower Merion area. We were invited as experts on the issue of education reform and funding. We also stopped and showed TWU Local 234 (the SEPTA workers) our support during their strike. But the most memorable part was visiting Lower Merion High School. As we explained to everyone on the tour, Lower Merion gets double the amount of money per student than OHS and it’s only ten minutes away. Lower Merion is also building a new high school while Overbrook has been in the same building for almost 100 years.
Mr. Mega wanted to hear our voices on what we thought was needed to create the change we want to see. We discussed with him the importance of community involvement and student voice in bringing positive change to our school and he committed to being a part of that process with us.
Overbrook is full of dedicated students who deserve and want change. As students of the Philadelphia public school system we believe and know that we have the right to organize towards making that a reality. PSU works with so many students all over the city and recently we learned magnet school students can organize in their schools but we cannot. That is unfair. Just like at any other school, Overbrook students deserve the opportunity to voice our opinion about issues, take positive steps to make change, and become leaders inside of our school.
We believe every student should be heard and not muffled. So if the children are our future, let us be heard!
By Sharnell Barnett & Nicole Byrd