Philly students tell mayoral hopefuls: ‘Our vote matters’
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — A group of high school students organized by Children First PA said they haven’t seen concrete and specific plans by candidates for mayor on how they intend better the plight of young people like themselves.
Damani Morgan, a junior at Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice, said he along with friends and family are paying close attention to the mayor’s race and urging all of them to vote.
“I am registering people to vote on May 16,” Morgan said. “I am registering my friends who can vote and talking to my family and neighbors about the importance of voting. We will vote for the next mayor of Philadelphia. Our vote matters. Show us your concrete plans that you will put into action on day one. The candidate who shows how they are going to improve my safety and my education when they are mayor is the person that has my vote.”
Morgan was one of about a half a dozen high school students who spoke at a news conference outside City Hall on Friday afternoon.
Formerly known as Public Citizens For Children and Youth, Children First is a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that seek to improve the lives of children by advocating for health care, child care, public education, family stability and other initiatives.
A group of more than 65 advocates for children, including Children First, created The Kids’ Campaign to tell the mayoral candidates that the city’s young people have been traumatized by gun violence, drugs, poverty and to ask them to create a specific plan to keep them safe and secure.
In addition to the campaign, the coalition is using candidate forums and questionnaires to collect information, to the students and the families have a better idea of who to supports their agenda and will earn their support for mayor.
Symbol Lai, mobilization and policy director at Children First, said eight candidates have signed the Kids’ Agenda Pledge, but they still haven’t shown any hard policies on what they would do for kids.
According to the group, the following candidates signed the pledge: state Rep. Amen Brown, grocer Jeff Brown, former City Councilmembers Allan Domb, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez; and former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart.
The pledge includes statements such as no child should go hungry, every child deserves access to health care, jobs, after school programs, along with safety and security.
“We want to make sure that the next mayor of the city of Philadelphia will be a mayor for young people just like me,” said Mikayla Jones, a senior at Central High School. “We want to make sure that the next mayor will make sure I am secure.”
Citing a poll released last week by Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Jones said 75% of those surveyed, said public schools should be a top priority for the next mayor.
“All of us at the Kids’ Campaign agree,” Jones said. “That’s why our slogan is make every day safer than the one before. That’s why our Kids’ Agenda is to make sure we have a road map to make sure that we are SECURE. What will give me Safety, Education, a Career, Uplift, Recreation and a good Environment?”
Arlon Hart, a senior at Parkway Northwest, said students like her deserve a mayor who will make them secure.
“I am here today because we have an important election coming up in Philly this May,” Hart said. “I am going to be electing a new mayor and I want a mayor who will make every day safer than the one before.
“Even though I’ve been keeping my eye out for the mayoral candidates, I haven’t seen plans for what they would do if elected. They say they support the Kids’ Agenda and value me, but they haven’t showed me their work.
“They haven’t told me how they would make the Kids’ Agenda a reality,” Hart said. “Promises aren’t enough. We need a plan. Whoever does the most for me and my friends is the person who I am going to vote for in May.”
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.