Students want to take the Welcome America! stage to save their school

Sara Watkins and Greg Coleman want the mic at the Welcome America! festival. Rikard Larma/METRO
Sara Watkins and Greg Coleman want the mic at the Welcome America! festival. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

Sara Watkins wants America to know: Philadelphia schools need help.

Watkins, a 17-year-old junior at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, wants to take the stage at the Wawa Welcome America! festival over the July 4 holiday and spread the word: “Save our schools!”

They aren’t a flash mob, and they don’t want to leave school early.

“We need parents, teachers, adults involved and we figure that if we go on stage, we can let people know what their children might lose,” said Watkins, a peaceful redhead from the far Northeast.

The school district is broke. As a whole, it runs a $300 million deficit and is pleading with the state for $120 million in aid and the city for $60 million along with $133 million in savings from contract negotiations with both union and non-union employees.

As a result of the lack of funding, district Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. proposed massive budget cuts.

Counselors, sports, librarians, school secretaries, music, after-school programs, classroom aides, school psychologists and nurses are all on the chopping block without more funding.

“I think the overall message is more or less we’re the future, so give us the tools to build it,” said Greg Coleman, 16, a CAPA junior.

Watkins outlined her speech. First, she would ask the audience: “Who here loves Questlove?”

“And of course the crowd would go nuts,” she said. “And I would say he [the Roots drummer] came from CAPA, and I go to CAPA. The Philadelphia high schools are able to produce such amazing talent. Such people that have changed our world, and by cutting our educational system, maybe we’re not going to have that same talent in 10 years.”

A city spokesman said they would need more information but they would speak with her.


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