Photo by Karissa Olsen.
For my Philadelphia Weekly column this week, I printed a letter that 18-year-old Philadelphia teen Edgar Pagan wrote about the city’s violence and failing schools. Last week, it was hand-delivered to President Obama.
Dear President Obama,
Philadelphia was once known for its brotherly love and Independence Mall. Now, it is more known for its violent people and poor elementary education. The people of Philadelphia have been plagued by high crime and the murder rate and the failing schools stretching citywide.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I attended Webster Elementary School until fourth grade, when my mother realized how unfulfilling and unsuccessful the Philadelphia public school system was, and still is. I was moved to Ascension of Our Lord School, where I received the education the youth of this city needs, although it was still a very poor school. Once I graduated with honors, I attended Girard College. I graduated with a 3.5 GPA on June 7, 2012. I cannot stress how much Girard College has influenced and turned my life completely around. It has shaped me into a better young man than I would have ever been. I realized this during my freshman year.
On Oct. 11, 2008, I was at home on Jasper Street in Kensington standing near my room waiting to use the bathroom, when my mother told me that my cousin Polla has been shot. Then my grandmother called me and told me that the shots were fatal, and that he drew his last breath near A Street on the north side of Philadelphia. As it turns out, he was shot for placing a beer bottle on the neighbor’s steps, not knowing the fatal consequences he would have to face later on. He was about 34. His birthday was only a few days away. The suspect was just a kid like me, about 18-21 years old. His mother lived in the house where the bottle was placed.
Thank you to Edgar Pagan for sharing the letter, Amy Quinn for helping me find him and Zoe Strauss for hand delivering to Obama in the White House.