State of Young Philly: A Discussion on Sustainability, Education, and Economy

By Andy Sharpe |

State of Young Philly

Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) focused on the Philadelphia region’s efforts to promote sustainability, bolster the economy, and improve K-12 education the past couple of weeks as part of the State of Young Philly conference. Three of the guiding events were Philly Sustainability 101, Philly Education 101, and Philly Economy 101. All of these events featured panel discussions and audience strategizing, and were held in the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio. Dozens of connected and dedicated Philadelphians attended each event.

Sustainability 101 discussed Greenworks, stormwater management, and energy-efficiency

Philly Sustainability 101 outlined the exciting things that are occurring in the city and region around stormwater control, energy-efficiency, and other facets of environmental stewardship.

The professionals who spoke gave specific and practical examples of sustainability in action. Adam Agalloco, the Energy Conservation Coordinator within the city Office of Sustainability, focused on Greenworks, which is Philadelphia’s sustainability blueprint. Agalloco highlighted what the city is doing right with Greenworks, including converting traffic lights into efficient LED lights and having by far the largest bike mode share of the nation’s ten largest cities.

Next, Glen Abrams, manager for Strategic Policy and Coordination within the Water Department, spoke about Green City, Clean Waters. Abrams assured attendees that $1.67 billion has been invested in “green stormwater infrastructure,” including rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, and cisterns.

Melissa Muroff, the vice president of Roofmeadow, discussed the impressive work that’s been done with green roofs across the city, including on a SEPTA bus shelter at 15th and Market, at Germantown Friends School, and atop The Radian in University City. Finally, Steven Donohue at the EPA shepherded attendees through the work he’s done to make his own home much more energy-efficient.

Education 101 featured experts discussing how parents can make an informed decision on where to send their child to school

Philly Education 101 showcased how the Internet is being utilized by parents of K-12 students who want to send their sons or daughters to the best possible school. One of the most interesting revelations to come out of this evening is the upcoming launch of the website Great Philly Schools.  This will be a “one-stop location” to “find, compare, and choose” Philadelphia public and private schools,” tempts Kristen Forbriger, the site creator and communications manager at Philadelphia School Partnership.

Forbriger added that this website is a partnership between herself, Freedom Rings’ KEYSPOTS, and the Free Library of Philadelphia. To be able to reach as many parents as possible, she promises that a print and multilingual copy of the website will be made available in the future.

Other speakers discussing education included Ben Herold with Newsworks and the Public School Notebook and Brett Schaeffer, also with the Public School Notebook and the Education Law Center. Education is “exciting to cover as a parent and as a journalist,” said Herold, starting off his presentation. He also emphasized the about 500 different K-12 school options throughout the city.

Meanwhile, Schaeffer presented on School Advisory Councils, Home and School Associations, and “Friends of” school groups. One example he recited was of the Queen Village Neighbors Association’s It Takes Queen Village friends group representing  Nebinger and Meredith Schools.

Economy 101 zoomed through the work of local nonprofit and economic leaders to make the city and region more economically competitive

Philly Economy 101 was quite a bit different from the previous two events, as it featured ten different speakers on behalf of nine different organizations. Needless to say, speakers had to rush through presentations to ensure the evening didn’t go over two hours.

Josh Sevin, the deputy director of the Economy League, started off the lightning round of presentations. He iterated how manufacturing is on the decline across the region, yet “eds and meds,” the universities and medical research institutions, are booming. Ryan Bailey, a developer with Pennrose Realty and a member of the Fairmount CDC Board, gave a primer on Community Development Corporations. In a nutshell, he said CDCs encourage real estate development and affordable housing.

Chris Wink, a co-founder of Technically Philly and Technically Media, gave a quick synopsis of how the city needs to focus on “attracting and retaining talent.” He also stressed social entrepreneurship in life sciences, sustainability, and nonprofits as one of Philadelphia’s greatest assets.

Bryan Evans, the director of Publications and Public Relations at Select Greater Philadelphia, expanded everyone’s minds by saying the Delaware Valley is part of a “broad region” that flexes from New York City to Washington DC. Honing back in on just Greater Philadelphia, he highlighted the 90,500 jobs recently provided by higher education institutions and the more than 25 business incubators that currently exist in and around Philadelphia.

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