Thursday, March 22, 2012

Community Schools Chair Ira Harkavy on Joy Dryfoos. . .

Joy Dryfoos was there at the creation of the current community school movement. More than that, she, more than anyone else, created it through her writings, words and actions. I had my first conversation with Joy as the result of a brief discussion of the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps (WEPIC) in her 1990 book Adolescents at Risk. WEPIC was the name for our early university-assisted community schools model. I do not remember much about our first conversation, but I do remember that Joy was an amazing source of information and ideas. It was Joy who in 1992 introduced the WEPIC team at Turner Middle School in Philadelphia to Children's Aid Society and the work at IS 218 in New York. She encouraged site visits, calls, and meetings. With infectious enthusiasm, Joy convinced me that we were on the cusp of developing a model that would help all children to reach their full potential and help our society realize its unrealized founding promise of a fair, decent and just society for everyone. An activist to the core, Joy was on a mission to develop a movement. During telephone calls, at conferences, and visits to Penn, she would bring news from the front--the latest developments in community schools.

In 1996, Joy convinced Pete Moses of the Children’s Aid Society and me to go to Memphis for a national meeting of New American School—or something to that effect. I recall how busy I was at the time and that the last thing I felt like doing was to travel to another meeting. But you could not say no to Joy. She explained that it was essential that we attend, that we make the case, that we build the movement. And so the three of us went to the meeting and our session had a total of six participants—the three of us and three others in the audience. At the conclusion of the session, I wanted to rush downstairs and see the ducks of the Peabody Hotel (where the meeting was being held) do their famous walk. But Joy told me I couldn’t leave, that the small size of the audience indicated that we had to build a community school movement. So Joy, Pete, and I sat and talked, and continued to talk and talk. I missed the ducks, but a plan was developed to hold a meeting at Children’s Aid of a small group from the Netter Center and Children’s Aid, as well as colleagues from Fordham University—and, of course, Joy—to plan and organize a larger meeting in New York City. That meeting exceeded all expectations in size and enthusiasm. And the rest, as they say, is history. And that history could not have been written and made without Joy Dryfoos.

Over years Joy, served as a guide, mentor, and friend. We shared our work and discussed and debated ideas and strategies. Her intellectual honesty, sense of purpose, and indefatigable optimism inspired me. It was simply wonderful to be in her company and to work with her. I will miss her very much. As will the movement that she inspired.

Ira Harkavy, Director, Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania
Chair, Coalition for Community Schools

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