During his term as School District Officer at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School, Donald Lewis created a mentoring program for boys known as “Men of Mitchell.” Now, he is taking the same approach at Tilden Middle School.
At Mitchell, his guidance program met twice a week and was set up like a business conference. Each student dressed in a shirt and tie and addressed their classmates as “Mr.” Every Tuesday and Thursday they discussed such topics as current events and the kind of behavior that would appropriate to maturing as responsible young men. Officer Lewis loved to show the students, handpicked by himself based on their behavior in the classroom, that there is “more to life than just Southwest Philly.”
Lewis’ training emphasizes responding to one’s environment in a positive manner, and, most importantly, that education comes first. Some of the young men who are in Officer Lewis’s mentoring program at Tilden are also coached by him on the basketball team. Officer Lewis is an important role model for these students and is enthusiastically supported by the Delaware Valley Fairness Program (DVFP) which now operates at Tilden. This school year, the DVFP funded the purchase of the shirts and ties for his mentees and the uniforms for the Tilden Middle School basketball team.
The DVFP provides materials and supplies for classroom projects and field trips (40 to date this school year). Having discontinued the practice of assigning in-school coordinators at partner schools, DVFP is able to devote more funds to support the families of the children. Studies have shown that when a child’s home life improves – for instance, having enough food and a bed to sleep on, and having reliable electricity and water access – the child’s school performance will also improve.
This year, DVFP has substantially expanded its food pantry program, and more than tripled the number of funds that it is using for rent and utility assistance, school uniforms, winter clothing, furniture, and other basic needs to improve the home life of children around Philadelphia.
Written by Cynthia Smidga
Cynthia Smidga is Assistant Project Manager at Delaware Valley Fairness Program.