Father Judge student wins essay contest

Fath­er Judge High School seni­or Al­ex­an­der Citer­one was honored on Oct. 21 as the win­ner of a stu­dent es­say con­test sponsored by the North­east Phil­adelphia Hall of Fame. The con­test asked stu­dents to write on the theme ofUn­cov­er­ing North­east Philly: What makes North­east Phil­adelphia Spe­cial?”

Here is the win­ning  es­say:

In or­der to truly ap­pre­ci­ate the “Great North­east,” one must learn the evolve­ment of the liv­ing leg­acy in stor­ies, his­tor­ies and tra­di­tions. After re­search­ing life in the North­east from my par­ents, grand­par­ents and older neigh­bors, one would hear from each story a com­mon theme: simple, humble be­gin­nings. Dec­ades ago, many fam­il­ies mi­grated to the North­east from the city to en­joy an al­most sub­urb­an life­style and gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren stayed here. The fam­ily unit was a strong fa­cet of the area; neigh­bors were many times con­sidered ex­ten­ded fam­ily and every­one watched out for each oth­er. Tra­di­tions were im­port­ant and en­tire neigh­bor­hoods were al­most “cook­ie cut­ter” im­ages of each oth­er. Des­pite minor dif­fer­rences in street names and loc­al busi­nesses, you could hardly tell if you were in May­fair, Holmes­burg or Rhawn­hurst if you were not a loc­al. Throughout the com­munity, these neigh­bor­hoods main­tained the same blue­print of middle-class fam­il­ies with strong val­ues and a hard work eth­ic.

Today, North­east Philly has main­tained a re­semb­lance of what it was in the past; neigh­bors still share com­mon goals such as safety and a fam­ily-ori­ented at­mo­sphere. They have a cer­tain iden­tity with each oth­er where re­la­tion­ships are built and grown. One great demon­stra­tion of solid­ar­ity between neigh­bors found throughout the North­east today is the block party. Truly noth­ing dis­plays this unity quite like the parties one can see on any giv­en day at the end of the sum­mer. When Phil­adelphia sports teams are vic­tori­ous, neigh­bors can be heard re­joicing from their re­spect­ive sports cel­eb­ra­tions. There is a unique in­ter­act­ing or re­lat­ing to each oth­er that is un­like many oth­er neigh­bor­hoods. It is not only im­port­ant that in­di­vidu­als live in close prox­im­ity to each oth­er, but that the life of each in­ter­acts and im­pacts the lives of oth­ers. 

The North­east binds people to­geth­er be­cause many hold sim­il­ar val­ues des­pite dif­fer­ences in re­li­gion or race.  There are a vari­ety of churches that have re­mained very sim­il­ar from the past, al­though the North­east is be­com­ing very col­or­ful.  His­tory shows that the North­east was primar­ily white, Itali­an or Ir­ish-Cath­ol­ic des­cend­ants with scattered Jew­ish com­munit­ies. Cur­rently, you not only see a white pop­u­la­tion, there are also Afric­an-Amer­ic­an, His­pan­ic, Asi­an, Pa­cific-Is­land and In­di­an people. The blend­ing of these people brings about new tra­di­tions that can be shared and learned. There is a co­hes­ive­ness, a com­mon re­gard that is evid­ent es­pe­cially with­in the young­er gen­er­a­tions with fam­il­ies at the loc­al play­grounds and youth sports or­gan­iz­a­tions. It is en­cour­aging to see res­id­ents of the North­east sup­port­ing their chil­dren at sports events or fun­drais­ing for a spe­cif­ic pro­ject like im­prov­ing re­cre­ation­al fa­cil­it­ies. The key ele­ment to the suc­cess­ful­ness is the com­mon­al­ity that drives them to­geth­er. 

Neigh­bor­hoods in the North­east are some­times man­aged and gov­erned by their own res­id­ents. Some have Town Watches or civic lead­er­ship groups that set stand­ards and rules and al­loc­ate re­spons­ib­il­it­ies in which all can share and be­ne­fit. Loc­al busi­nesses have been able to grow and ex­pand by in­teg­rat­ing with the com­munity and as­sist­ing with their own con­cerns. For ex­ample, last year, busi­nesses and fam­il­ies united to­geth­er in sup­port of St. Hubert Cath­ol­ic High School. It was slated for clos­ing by the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia; however, loc­als knew that the clos­ing of the school would af­fect many as­pects of the North­east. A uni­fied cam­paign was cre­ated and so­li­fied the tight bounds of tra­di­tion that ex­ist with­in the com­munity. Without these es­sen­tial groups, the North­east could not sur­vive and flour­ish. The North­east is such a dy­nam­ic place to live and hav­ing all res­id­ents par­ti­cip­ate in help­ing make it even bet­ter is a great goal for all. 

From the ba­sic build­ing blocks of the fam­ily unit and an in­teg­rated neigh­bor­hood that strives for the well-be­ing of  its people come unique in­di­vidu­als that left a stamp on so­ci­ety. Some of these people are high­lighted be­cause of the ex­cep­tion­al way they’ve lived their lives and em­bod­ied tra­di­tion with­in their own com­munit­ies. Their char­ac­ter, pres­ence and tal­ents render them as ex­amples of  the pos­it­ive in­flu­ence of the com­munity of North­east Phil­adelphia. It is im­port­ant to shine a spot­light on the con­tri­bu­tions of or­din­ary people that have done ex­traordin­ary things. These people are the in­spir­a­tion for our young, provid­ing ex­amples to our youth that they should strive for ex­cel­lence in any en­deavor of their choos­ing. These im­port­ant fig­ures and their con­tri­bu­tions should be re­cog­nized by the area which de­veloped their suc­cess­ful traits. By present­ing sig­ni­fic­ant and power­ful role mod­els, the North­east Phil­adelphia Hall of Fame is a source of learn­ing, in­spir­a­tion and hope for the com­munity. 

The tra­di­tions, fam­ily val­ues and hard work eth­ic of the people of the North­east have sur­vived the test of time and cre­ated people to spread these ideals with which they grew up. It is im­port­ant to un­der­stand the his­tory of the North­east, to re­cog­nize what made it great, and to pass these simple prin­ciples of  life to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The North­east is in­deed spe­cial and we should be proud to live in a great neigh­bor­hood. ••

You can reach at noreply@bsmphilly.com.

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