A Letter from a Young Leader

Dear Friends of the Advocate,

I’m an 11th grade council member of the Advocate Leadership Council and a resident of North Philadelphia.  Two years ago, I moved back to Philadelphia from McLean, Virginia.  Moving at 15 years old was not easy.  I was at a new school, a new place, and had no friends.  It was hard to make new friends on such short notice.  Thankfully, I found the Advocate Center.

At the Advocate Center, I found community and family.  I found home. Some of my closest friends are now from the Advocate Center. Not only did I find friends, I found myself.  At the Advocate, I participated in the writing program with Mighty Writers, dance and acting with Arts4All, poetry and art with ArtWell, and watched as my friends played some pretty competitive basketball. I learned about where I’ve come from and who I am.  In the last two years, I put together a road map of where I’m going.  I am going to be a judge when I grow up.  But, I’m not waiting until adulthood to begin to address the most pressing social realities in my community. Through the Advocate Center, I’m taking on leadership roles to transform my community now.

Last month, along with my fellow Advocate Leadership Council members, we hosted a forum on Temple University and North Philadelphia community relations.  We held a panel discussion between youth leaders from North Philadelphia and Temple student leaders.  

For the first time, some Temple students and professors listened to our experience of the neighborhood, the university, and the impact of gentrification.  Because of comments I made as a panelist at the forum, Temple administrators and Temple Student Government are working with us to develop an “Experience Temple Day” for neighborhood high school students.  

While our most recent forum was just the beginning, our actions are already having an effect---bringing people together for conversation, planning, and action to improve North Philadelphia.  

The Advocate brings people together for change.  The Advocate has equipped me to be a leader and helped me develop the skills I need to be successful in school, in our community, and in life.   

As a junior, I am looking at colleges, preparing my essays, and getting ready to apply for schools.  When I look at my top three schools--Spelman College, Georgia Tech, and Temple University--I feel confident that the Advocate has prepared me to succeed in college, to network and make new friends and new connections, and to work for positive change wherever I go. With free college prep workshops, college boot camp, entrepreneurship classes, essay writing sessions, service learning and leadership opportunities throughout the year, I know I have the tools I need to succeed.  

Your support of the Advocate Center helped change my life, helped me change my community, and will help myself and other youth transform this city.  All of the Advocate’s programming is free. At a time like this, with talented, intelligent young leaders like me, we can’t afford to not have the support of the Advocate Center.

Please consider supporting young leaders like me so that we can continue to build up one another and this city.  

Sincerely, 

Niyah Palmer