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The Bridesburg Recreation Center's pool in the summer of 2015, before its renovation. Photo: Micaela Root/Phillypublicpools.com
The Bridesburg Recreation Center's pool in the summer of 2015, before its renovation. Photo: Micaela Root/Phillypublicpools.com

In the heat of summer, forget the violence and embrace the community

Summers in the city should be remembered for fun and opportunity, not violence.

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“Authorities in Philadelphia say one person has been killed and at least seven others have been shot during a graduation party,” read the opening of an article from USA Today about a shooting that occurred Sunday night in Southwest Philly.

It came during a weekend of violence in the city that included 19 shootings, leaving five dead. In recent years, Philadelphia’s homicide rate has steadily climbed to alarming levels, causing its leaders to declare a ‘public health crisis’. No part of the year is more deadly than the summer when school is out and activities and programs run dry in many of Philly’s neighborhoods.

But many in Philadelphia are working to change that, and counter the violence, with a different vision of what summer can be for the city’s youth.

The season is a much-needed time away from school for the city’s youth to relax and have fun. All across Philadelphia, community leaders and volunteers lead summer activities from camps and swim lessons to job fairs and mentorships to keep young people away from negative influences.

For Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Helen Ubiñas, summer officially began in the city on June 17.

Monday marked the grand opening of a new, $3.7 million pool at the Bridesburg Recreation Center in Northeast Philly. The renovation came as part of the city’s Rebuild Initiative — one that looks to improve parks and recreation centers across the city over the next five years.

Bridesburg’s new pool opening is also the first in a wave of outdoor pools to open this week, giving kids in neighborhoods across the city a chance to swim for free during the day, or take lessons.

In addition to its 74 outdoor pools, the city also offers 25 spraygrounds — park areas offering interactive water play and minimal standing water — for more fun in the sun. The spraygrounds are open now, but the pools will open on a rolling basis for the rest of June.

In regards to summer camps, there are 180 offered in the city this summer — some also began on June 17. From art and science to sports and music, there is a camp for every child to find and explore their passions.

But what about Philly’s young adults?

In her column from the end of May, the Inquirer’s Jenice Armstrong warned against Police Commissioner Richard Ross’ plans to have more police patrols over the summer to curb violence. Instead, her solution involved finding more job opportunities for the city’s adolescents and young adults.

Armstrong highlighted a community job fair held by Unity in the Community in South Philly on June 1.

Accessible job fairs are harder to find, especially since the summer has already begun. However, the upcoming 2020 Census is looking to employ 3,000 in the Philadelphia-area to accurately conduct its count and is holding a job fair at the Parkway Central Library on June 19 (tomorrow). There is also the 2nd Annual West Philly Community Job Fair on June 28. Yesterday, the city also celebrated a $1 million investment into summer jobs for youth. 

Part of summer’s meaning in cities across the country comes from the dialogue created around it. If all we focus on is violence, then that’s all many will see. It’s a disservice to those in the community who work against it, but more importantly, to the young people affected by it on a daily basis. They need to know of the other reality for anything to change and the community work being done in their favor should be celebrated.

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