MArch students win Fels Policy Challenge for School Vision
PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania (Fels) announced that team "Closing Schools, Opening Opportunities" has been selected the winner of its third annual Public Policy Challenge (www.fels.upenn.edu/challenge) held on Sunday, April 1, 2012 at WHYY in Philadelphia.
The winning idea is focused on transforming nine vacant school properties into vibrant community hubs to counteract potential blight and the adverse economic effects of school closures. The proposal was presented by University of Pennsylvania team members including Sarah Besnoff, Law School/ Fels Institute of Government; Evan Litvin, MArch'12; Lea Oxenhandler, MArch'12; and Aaron Tjoa, Law School.
The Public Policy Challenge is a student-led, public policy competition open to all undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Teams competed over the course of nine weeks to develop a policy proposal and civic campaign to address a specific issue affecting the Philadelphia region. Ten teams participated in various rounds of workshops, consultations with mentors, and a semi-final competition to determine the five teams that presented during the finals. The prominent judges that helped determine the final winner included Representative Dwight Evans, 203rd Legislative District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Program Director/Philadelphia, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Patrick Joyce, Principal, Deloitte Consulting; Pedro Ramos, Esq., Chairman, School Reform Commission; Representative Chris Ross , 158th Legislative District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives; and Councilwoman Marian Tasco, 9th District, Majority Leader, Philadelphia City Council.
"The Public Policy Challenge brings together talented, passionate interdisciplinary groups to develop practical pragmatic solutions to some of our region's most pressing issues," said David Thornburgh, Executive Director, Fels Institute of Government. "These students are our future civic leaders and their passion and commitment to solving problems through collaboration and innovation shows great promise for our future."
The four other teams that participated in the finals included:
- • Empower! - A proposal to create a Spanish language radio program that informs parents of current happenings in the Philadelphia School District and provides them with the knowledge and resources to participate more fully in their children's education.
- • Liberty Bike Share - A proposal that adopts a new approach to the creation of a bike share program in Philadelphia.
- • Philly Benefits Bus - A proposal that utilizes a mobile benefit and application center to increase the accessibility of public benefits in high poverty neighborhoods.
- • Medical Home Model - A proposal to adopt the Medical Home Model to address current shortfalls in the ambulatory healthcare services provided by the City of Philadelphia.
The "Closing Schools, Opening Opportunities" team received a $10,000 prize and will move forward to face teams from schools across the country on April 22nd at the National Invitational Public Policy Challenge being held at the National Constitution Center. Confirmed schools include Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, the University of Chicago, the Fels Institute of Government and the University of Washington.
The Public Policy Challenge was presented by Deloitte Consulting Group. Additional sponsors included The Knight Foundation, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, and Education-Plus, Inc.
"We're so grateful to Fels for organizing such an exciting challenge. Our team was matched based on our similar interests in working with vacant land or blight in the city, but the interdisciplinary nature of the Policy Challenge is what makes it really different. We have such a great mix of complimentary skillsets-- Evan and I being from the Master of Architecture program, Sarah from Fels and the Law School and Aaron from the Law School. Our mix of experience allowed us to cover all of our bases in preparing our proposal, and we are so happy that the judges recognized this thoroughness. We hope to keep the proposal moving forward amongst city leaders, as we strongly believe that the School District needs to make a change in its policies for dealing with surplus property and that this change presents a unique opportunity for the city," said Oxenhandler.
As part of its 75th anniversary celebration, Fels will host a roster of events throughout the year. For more information on all 75th anniversary events, please visit www.fels.upenn.edu/75.
About the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania
The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania is committed to advancing the quality of public leadership. It accomplishes its mission by offering focused, practical educational programs that prepare students for public sector work; providing research and consulting services that improve the performance of organizations that serve the public; and bridging the worlds of practice and possibility through conferences, lectures, and discussions about public issues and public problem-solving. For more information, please visit www.fels.upenn.edu.