Michael Nutter introduced the city to his possible successor last Friday.
That’s not to say Alexis Colon may be the next mayor of Philadelphia. After all, the next mayoral election won’t occur until 2015. And Colon is only 17 years old, anyway. But if the Little Flower High School junior stays on track, she’s bound to achieve a lofty office someday.
“You have to be 25 to run (for mayor), so I look forward to seeing her in the 2023 race,” Nutter said during opening ceremonies of the 44th annual PAL Day at City Hall.
Colon, of Tioga, has been participating in the Harrowgate Police Athletic League for nine years, including its homework, golf, computer and Positive Images for Girls programs. She and about two dozen other highly accomplished PAL teens from throughout the city spent Friday shadowing high-ranking city officials in the workplace, learning some of the inner-workings of city government.
Colon was the honorary mayor, while another Little Flower student, Aleena Bujanowski of Port Richmond and Rizzo PAL, served as honorary Department of Human Services commissioner.
William Lombardo (Northeast High, Gibbons PAL) was Parking Authority executive director, while Johnay Washington (Washington High, Oxford Circle PAL) was finance director. Lorraine Curry (Lincoln High, Tacony PAL) was police commissioner, with Christopher Wood (Father Judge, Wissinoming PAL) as fire commissioner.
“Motivated, civic-minded students like the young people here today represent Philadelphia’s best and brightest,” Nutter said, addressing the youths. “I’m looking forward to you leading the way for your classmates both inside and outside the classroom.”
Colon said she was “raised in a home of public service” with her father serving as a police Highway Patrol officer and her mother an aide to City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. Colon also credited the mentoring of Harrowgate PAL Officer Frank Rivera for leading her on the right path.
“Positive role models are critical for helping young people realize their dreams. We need more officers like Frank,” Colon said.
“The future is for all of you,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, whose department administers the PAL program. “All you have to do is stay in school, get an education and never let anybody tell you what you can’t do.”
Lockheed Martin sponsors the annual program.
“Our future is really bright in the hands of Alexis and the other PAL students we have here today,” said Gerry Fasano, the company’s vice president of strategy and business development. “These young people not only stay in school, work hard and help others, they strive to do more.”
The PAL Day program is more than a ceremony; it’s also hands-on experience for the selected students. Tyreek Stotts, 18, lives in Germantown and participates in Paley PAL, but he got an opportunity to visit the Northeast with Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla, a Tacony native.
“I want to see how the prison looks from the inside. I’ve never been there,” said Stotts, who plans to study nursing at Community College.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really accomplished young people who are focused and dedicated to serving the community,” said Giorla, who has mentored PAL teens for five years. “I have a number of things I want to attend and I want him to attend. It’s not an office environment. We’ll be in the jail.”
For Washington, a 16-year-old aspiring fashion designer and performing artist, the day was destined to be more bureaucratic but no less exciting. Her mentor, Finance Director Rob Dubow, controls the City Hall purse strings.
“Mayor Nutter just asked me for money. I told him I’ll get back to him,” Washington joked.
Curry described herself as a shy person and she’s considering a career in theater, although forensic science also interests her. She was going to see plenty of forensics as Ramsey’s shadow for the day. According to the police commissioner, students usually enjoy visiting the crime lab in addition to the police radio room and the department’s new real-time crime center.
“It’s a good day to interact one-on-one with PAL kids,” Ramsey said. ••