The Philadelphia Project Preschool: Integrating Faith with Academics by Rev. Sarah Colwill

“It’s a feeling you get when you walk in the doors,” so claims Christina Platt, one of the Directors of The Philadelphia Project who is charged with running their bustling preschool. Her energy and enthusiasm around the program is palpable as she talks about the warmth both parents and students feel when they enter their doors each morning for drop-off. The preschool is housed in Roxborough Presbyterian Church, with the entryway resting in the connector between the sanctuary and the classrooms. This connection is precisely what the preschool is aspiring to strengthen. Executive Director of The Philadelphia Project (TPP) and Pastor of Roxborough Presbyterian Church, Rev. Ray Garcia claims the vision of the preschool is to bring together both quality academics and spiritual development.

Three years ago the preschool program was birthed after assessing the needs of the local Roxborough community. There was a lack of affordable, high-quality education that was faith-based, and parents were yearning for such a combination. Members of the church along with their pastor often witnessed families leaving the city for a better public school system in the suburbs. They dreamed of finding a way to have a positive influence on the Philadelphia public schools by walking alongside parents as their children approached elementary school.

Christina Platt was a member at Roxborough Presbyterian Church with a Master’s in Education who was teaching at a school in Kensington when she caught the vision for the preschool. Her mother-in-law runs a preschool in Bucks County, so with her help, Christina, Rev. Garcia, and others began to turn their dreams into reality. Christina left her job and took on the role of director, which felt like a perfect fit for her own call to serve youth both academically and spiritually.

Donna Payne is a preschool teacher with 16 years of experience, the last two being full-time at The Philadelphia Project. She is particularly drawn to this preschool because of its Christ-centered mission that maintains a high level of academic integrity. The teachers begin each day with prayer which is “essential to the start of the day,” Donna claims. The way the teachers build one another up has created a loving environment where both workers and students can thrive. The school currently enrolls 56 children ages 2 through 6, most classes being at capacity with a waiting list.

The Philadelphia Project had its genesis at Grace Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Garcia was serving as Associate Pastor. TPP’s aim was, and continues to be, a hands-on response to both the physical and spiritual needs of the community. After Grace birthed TPP it spent three years housed at Mount Airy Presbyterian Church before coming to Roxborough in 2013. They are engaged in a variety of outreach programs such as housing/construction work, a food pantry, and after-school programs. They most recently purchased a property in the heart of Germantown, with hopes of using the space to house summer volunteers who work on construction projects and share God’s love in the neighborhood.

The preschool depends upon grant monies and additional donors to keep the cost of high-quality education affordable for families in their neighborhood. As a presbytery, we are proud supporters of this program which builds up our city’s youth. They are one of the recipients of the presbytery’s Covenant Fund Grant for both 2015 and 2016, receiving $15,000 each year. As a presbytery we stand on the side of hope as we support ministries like The Philadelphia Project preschool that care for and nurture children in our city. Through our contributions, we are helping uplift students and families as they seek to grow in both faith and education.