We Love Philly goes the extra mile for education
How a 60-mile walk helped amplify student voices in Philly.
Amid an increased need for change within Philadelphia’s education system and for students to have a voice in the process, a local nonprofit leader and journalist recently took a 62-mile walk from Philly to Atlantic City, New Jersey together to lend their support.
Carlos Aponte, executive director of We Love Philly, a non-profit organization that aims to empower minority students with positive community experiences, and Jason Peters, a local freelance journalist, embarked on the more than 60 mile walk to Atlantic City on July 16.
The walk ended with a celebration on July 18, as they crossed the finish line at an Atlantic City beach.
The walk was an effort to raise money and awareness for We Love Philly’s Project Ownership and to emphasize the need to amplify student voices in the education system.
“I’ve worked with the We Love Philly students and I’ve seen the difference it makes in their lives, but I also think the education system needs to change,” Peters said. “A lot of students get left behind and Project Ownership is a unique initiative that will help students be involved in changing their education.”
Aponte, who created Project Ownership earlier this year, first spoke to AL DÍA News about the importance of the project with the goal to provide students with an outlet to understand gentrification in Philadelphia and give them the tools needed to face adversity.
“Students saw gentrification happening in their neighborhoods and wanted to know what this meant and why it was happening,” Aponte said.
The project will allow 70 high school students identifying as either Latinx or African-American to transform a shipping container into a livable space that they will then be able to earn profits from and invest in their future.
“We really want to give students the space to create an environment for social and emotional learning that they don’t get growing up in Philadelphia with so much violence, crime and poverty,” Aponte said.
The broadcasted, three-day journey was a way to raise $30,000 for the project, as all donations went to We Love Philly.
Peters and Aponte first met each other in 2019, and Peters later began teaching audio to Aponte’s students.
But the idea for the walk sparked from Peters’ podcast “2100,” a show that tries to accurately inform the people of the year 2100 about what the current culture is about. He promised his listeners that he would take the 60-mile walk from Philadelphia to Atlantic City upon getting to his 15,000th download.
“I had been working with We Love Philly and the way it came together was once I hit that landmark and began telling people about what I should do, Carlos immediately wanted to tie into We Love Philly and I agreed,” Peters said. “I didn’t really care about promoting the podcast anymore so I said: ‘Let's do it to raise money for Project Ownership and what it stands for rather than make it about the podcast.’”
According to Peters, the trek was also a way to show the necessity that students be able to have a voice in the School District of Philadelphia’s Board and be involved in actively changing the education system.
“It's to get more students involved because I feel there’s a generational gap where you have 60 and 70 year olds who don’t have anything to relate to and the students are left out.” Peters said.
Upon finishing the long, painful and exhausting walk, both Aponte and Peters said they felt proud they could make a difference and call awareness to vital education issues.
“I was extremely happy and fulfilled when it was done, but I was also in a lot of pain,” Peters said. “I was proud to follow through and be able to raise money, it was a fun experience to meet a lot of people and have it be interactive.”