National youth town hall comes to Bodine

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Students at Bodine High School for International Affairs learned life lessons from experts at a youth town hall on Thursday.

The BEM (Believe Every Moment) Foundation has embarked on a national campaign to foster dialogue between “at-risk” students and community leaders. The town hall at Bodine is one of 12 assemblies the BEM Foundation is facilitating around the country.

The town hall featured a panel of four Bodine students and 11 Philadelphia community leaders, including entrepreneurs, teachers, and pastors.

Panelists answered questions from students, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiatives on wellness, bullying, and financial literacy guided the discussion.

The town hall opened with dialogue on wellness. Health care executive Jamahal C. Boyd Sr. offered students the “Try 30” challenge of faith, fitness, and finance, which suggests taking 30 minutes daily for spiritual activity, 30 minutes daily for physical activity, and saving $1 each day for a minimum of 30 days.

Temple’s Assistant Professor of Architecture Scott Shall focused on managing time and resources.

“Keep track of what you spend each day,” he said.

Questions about peer pressure and cyber-bullying quickly became a list of dos and don’ts around the issue of social networking.

“When I hire people, the first thing I do is Google them,” Boyd said.

“What I see online is a representation of them. Make wise decisions about how you use social media, and don’t let social media use you.”

As for financial literacy, a representative from Philadelphia’s Sovereign Bank gave the students three core pieces of financial advice:

  • defend your credit rating,
  • save every day, and
  • become experts at managing, borrowing, and investing money.

Guy Thigpen, assistant director of Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority, spoke to his own experiences as a first-generation college student, and encouraged students to pursue post-secondary education to “make an investment in yourself.”

Afterward, Boyd noted that the students were remarkably well spoken and thoughtful. "It was refreshing to hear that type of dialogue," he said.

“I think the next step for students is to really take inventory of the knowledge that was shared today. Simplistic application is the key.”

Bodine senior Irene Patterson said, “I really enjoyed [the town hall] because I don’t really have a chance to get a feel for what college is like and get advice for life.”

Patterson said she especially appreciated the advice on money management, and plans to put it into practice in her college-going process.

“Now I’m going to look for scholarships, and find the right way to get loans,” she said.