Ronnie Polaneczky: You can help a kid

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SINCE THE massacre of 20 children in Connecticut, I've been thinking about what the president said in its aftermath:

That a parent's most important job is to give kids what they need to become "self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear."

But what about kids whose parents may not have the ability to do that? These children, too, need to become self-reliant, capable and resilient if they're to mature into adults who contribute to the world's joy, not its heartbreak.

So if, since Newtown, you've been feeling helpless about the children who died, why not do something for a child who is still here, in honor of one who is not?

Philly is home to many organizations that do wonderful work with young people and need help to reach more. Here are three that are worthy of your heart.

 

Mighty Writers

Founder Tim Whitaker says that the goal of Mighty Writers is less about getting kids to write with clarity than it is about getting them to think with clarity. Kids who think clearly make smarter decisions, which helps them imagine a hopeful future. And their self-esteem skyrockets.

Mighty Writers offers free workshops to 1,200 kids per year. Classes like "superhero storytelling," in which children create stories with heroes, conflicts and resolutions. And "game making," where they break down the story structure of great and silly works by, say, Lewis Carroll and Lemony Snicket, and then pen their own adventure tales. There are sports, sci-fi and blogging classes.

The magic unfolds at MW's headquarters, at 15th and Christian, and at 15th and South, where the focus is on new media. Next summer, a new location will open in West Philly, allowing hundreds more to experience the might of the written word.

To learn more, go to mightywriters.org, or call 267-239-0899.

 

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School

The students at YouthBuild, in North Philly, are low-income high-school dropouts from tough backgrounds. Many are parents. Some have criminal records; more have been victims of crime themselves. And all are desperate to turn their lives around.

The school is the local affiliate of YouthBuild USA, a national program that helps dropouts get their diplomas while developing skills - in construction, computer repair and nursing assistance - that will help them earn a paycheck after graduation.

But few would finish the program without the other things that YouthBuild provides: mentors, counseling and child care.

The 21-year-old school serves 200 students per year and is doing God's work with students who work hard for their miracles.

Nationally, fewer than three out of 10 students who enroll in community colleges full-time will graduate within three years. They wind up with college debt and no degree to show for it.

That's why YouthBuild executive director Simran Sidhu is excited by a new program - with Community College of Philadelphia and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster - that helps her grads manage the transition from high school to college.

Go to youthbuildphilly.org or call 215-627-8671.

 

Support Center for Child Advocates

Talk about doing God's work. Since 1977, SCCA has provided free legal and social services to abused and neglected children. During the last fiscal year alone, more than 330 volunteer lawyers provided pro bono services, valued at $4.5 million, to 810 kids.

This year, to celebrate its 35th anniversary, SCCA has been fulfilling the wishes of 35 of its children. The wishes have been small - under $200 - but speak volumes about SCCA's clientele.

A 17-year-old, "M," simply wanted to spend her birthday with her social worker. They lunched, visited boutiques, got mani-pedis and bought flowers to brighten M's room at her group home. M pronounced it the best birthday she could remember.

Nine-year-old "B," abandoned by his mother, collects toy horses and soothes himself by grooming them. SCCA arranged a visit to a farm where B got to ride a horse - a dream come true.

"C" is a preteen who has bounced around foster care since age 3 and has the behavioral disorders to prove it. Her wish was for singing lessons that would help her feel good about at least one aspect of her difficult life. SCCA gifted her with a private teacher.

SCCA communications director Moira Mulroney says that the 35 Wishes campaign has allowed the center to bring joy to children whose more urgent, legal needs usually take first priority.

SCCA's clients have wishes all year long, of course, not just during the center's anniversary year. Wanna grant one in 2013? Go to advokid.org or call 267-546-9200.

 


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: philly.com/ronnieblog

Columns: philly.com/Ronnie