A Decade of the Education Revolution
Ten years later, and it still never fails to happen: Newcomers turn the corner onto the 1900 block of North Judson Street, and they are astonished to see the beautiful modern facility dominating the street. But what is even more astonishing is what is happening inside the building in the lives of the students of all ages.
In 2003, with the phenomenal leadership of Lynne and Harold Honickman, and with the invaluable partnership of the Comcast Corporation, Project HOME opened the Honickman Learning Center Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL). It was a direct response to one of the most glaring needs we saw in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where we are engaged in comprehensive community development work: severe education deficits, both for young people and for adults, which hampered the kind of economic opportunity that could lift people out of poverty. Within the Center’s 38,000 square feet are manifold expressions of state-of-the-art technology, including hundreds of computers, interactive education programs, music and recording equipment, video-production facilities, and more.
Since its doors opened, the HLCCTL has been a beacon of hope as well as a hub of innovation in technology and education for our neighbors. More than 200 young people take advantage of the K-8 After-School Program and the Teen Program each year, while 800 adults annually participate in the Adult Learning and Workforce Development Program.
Its inaugural decade has been marked by great successes. We have tracked significant improvement in school performance by our youth. In a neighborhood that not long ago was a desert for post-high school education, more than 30 of our youth have gone to college, with several graduates getting jobs and serving the community. (See details on this year’s graduates on page 4.) Students express their gifts in the digital arts. Young people produce award-winning videos and develop their own recording companies. Young entrepreneurs learn to start their own businesses. Meanwhile, adult community members acquire employment and strengthen the economic stability of their families and of the neighborhood as a whole.
“I think the impact of the center has been huge – and certainly gratifying. Access to computers, the internet, and the ability to effectively use this technology are critical to participation in today's world,” reflects Lynne Honickman, who along with her husband Harold have been instrumental to both the founding and the ongoing success of the center. “All the programs focus on the integration of technology with art, education, and enterprise, hence arming our kids, as well as many adults, with the skill sets needed to succeed in the 21st century.”
Honickman adds, “Watching this process thrive, witnessing the progress of so many of our students – it is both a humbling and exquisite experience.”
Perhaps most important is what the HLCCTL stands for. Lower North Philadelphia has been victimized by decades of economic and social disinvestment and systemic racist practices, including red-lining. Largely because of political neglect, basic social systems in these neighborhoods – including schools — are often in miserable shape, offering the most meager of services. As the job base has hemorrhaged, meaningful economic opportunity is minimal, and families, residents, and communities collapse under the stress of the struggle for survival. Drugs, crime, and family breakdown all exacerbate the alienation and marginalization of these distressed communities. A deeply compromised and grossly under-resourced education system virtually traps the vast majority of these young people in the grip of poverty.
This magnificent facility exists because we refuse to accept second-class citizenship for anyone. We insist that the residents of North Philadelphia have the right to the same resources that would allow them to succeed and live in a healthy community. We dare to believe our kids deserve the best. We see in them tremendous potential, as much potential as children from the wealthiest suburbs. And over the past ten years, we have witnessed a hope-filled education revolution: adult learners and young students succeed, grow, and build a new future for themselves and their communities.
The Honickman Learning Center Comcast Technology Labs is a symbol of a social vision in which each man, woman, and child is given the opportunity and resources to flourish and achieve his or her fullest potential. We dare to believe that even the men and women who live in our streets and in our poorest neighborhoods deserve the best and brightest future, and that they have gifts to contribute to a healthy and thriving community.
A decade later, those gifts are coming to fruition. And we look forward to many more gifts in the decades to come.
We express our heartfelt gratitude to our amazing partners who make the programs at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs possible year after year. Foremost among them are our dear friends and visionary civic leaders, Lynne and Harold Honickman; the Roberts Family and Comcast Corporation; also, PNC Bank; Canada Dry; the Raynier Institute and Foundation; the Brinkman Family Foundation; Origlio Beverage; the Hamilton Family Foundation; Independence Blue Cross; and Balfour Beatty.
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