2. Spring 2016 | 1
Dear Friends of The Chester Fund,
am thrilled to be writing to you just four months into my tenure as
Executive Director at The Chester Fund, and I hope that you will
enjoy this first edition of our new magazine.
CCSA Today is a biannual publication through which we will share news and
updates about The Chester Charter School for the Arts. In
this edition, you will read about exciting curriculum devel-
opments such as “Scholastic Reading Counts” and “Food
for Thought”; new after-school programs, including “24
Club”; and the growth of our sports programs in “Leading
Ladies” and “Failing Forward.” We will also spotlight faculty
and staff members and volunteers in each edition—you will
find familiar faces here!
As you will read, there are many developments in pro-
cess at CCSA as we continue to expand to include a full
high school. You may also have heard that we will soon
be undertaking construction on a new school building to
accommodate this growth—we have not covered these
developments in this magazine, but rest assured, you will
hear more about these plans in the coming months.
We will get to know each other in the coming months and
years, but I will share just a little to introduce myself here. I am originally from
the UK, born and raised in Kent, and moved to Delaware County 12 years
ago to marry my husband, Jared Reed, who is Artistic Director at Hedgerow
Theatre. Since graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in
archaeology and anthropology, I have spent almost 15 years working with
and consulting for arts and education nonprofits of various shapes and sizes,
including a number of theaters in this region, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the
University of Pennsylvania, and The Haverford School. I’m also mother to two
boys, aged six and nine, and enjoy being around children constantly at work
and at home!
This is an amazing community and I am still learning, every day just how
engaged and deeply committed you all are to our mission in Chester.
Incredible things have been accomplished here in the past few years, and I’m
excited and grateful for the opportunity to be involved in what is to come.
Thank you for all that you do for The Chester Fund and CCSA, and please
don’t hesitate to be in touch with me directly at any time.
You can contact Keren at:
1 Letter from the Executive Director: Meet Keren White
2 From the Head of School/CEO: Akosua Watts
4 CCSA Today: Building Literacy Through Design
6 Curriculum in Focus: Food for Thought
8 After School Highlight: 24 Club
9 Faculty Profile: Brian Holm
10 Celebrating Our History: Marching for Martin/Singing for Maya
12 Class Notes by Dr. John Alston: 21st Century Perspectives
13 Mid-Year Makings
14 Athletic Highlights
16 Denyce Graves in Concert
18 Volunteer Profile: Abbie and Dave Rowley
20 Giving Update
21 Milestones & News
This is an amazing
community to be
coming into and I am
still learning, every day,
just how engaged and
deeply committed you
all are to our mission in
› Letter from the Executive Director› In This Issue
THE CHESTER FUND
Director of Development
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
James J. McEntee, III, Chair
Eric Del Viscio, MBA, Vice Chair
John Alston, DM, Founder/President
Wendy Emrich, Secretary/Treasurer
Ben Brake, MBA
Robert N. Speare, Esq.
Jeffrey R. Wolters, Esq.
Cordelia Delson, ex-officio
Donald W. Delson, JD/MBA, ex-officio
Maurice Eldridge, ex-officio/Chair
THE CHESTER CHARTER
SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS
Head of School/ CEO
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Donald W. Delson, JD/MBA, President
Maurice G. Eldridge, Vice President/
Barbara Klock, MD, Vice President
Scott Beaumont, MBA, Treasurer
Benjamin Berger, PhD
Marcine Pickron-Davis, PhD
Steve Piltch, EdD
Joel Zarrow, PhD
The mission of The Chester Fund for
Education and the Arts is to support
The Chester Charter School for the
Arts (CCSA), an arts-integrated,
academically rigorous, public charter
school in the Chester Upland School
District. CCSA serves educationally
underserved children in kindergarten
through 9th grade, and will expand
to 12th grade by 2018.
Meet Keren White
The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | Volume 1, Number 1
PUBLISHER: The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts EDITOR: Hillary Sorin ART DIRECTOR: Lynne Smyers, Smyers Design
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Audrey Amaro, Peter Murphy, Martin Froger-Silva, Hillary Sorin
The Chester Fund Magazine will be published bi-annually.
The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, 200 Commerce Drive, Aston PA 19014
Main Phone: (610) 859-2988; www.thechesterfund.org; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keren White with Calvin, Steven,
Anyah, and Ty’Tianna, grade 3.
Trey, grade 1.Drama class with Beverly Rigby.
Mahoganee, grade 4.
3. 2 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 3
› From The Head of School
want to celebrate The Chester Fund and thank you for your sup-
port. The Chester Fund supports CCSA in so many ways, finan-
cially and programmatically, and it is this extra input—which most
public schools never receive—that helps us not only to prepare
children for tests but to also teach to the best.
From my years as a financial analyst on Wall Street, I understand that data
and analysis provide vital feedback and are necessary measures of success.
But tests are not the only way to measure success in the school context.
We also take note of other crucial factors that can be quantified—including
attendance (96% this year!), levels of extracurricular participation, and faculty
and student retention rates. And we pay attention to important elements of
school culture that are less easy to quantify: happy faces, confident children,
deep friendships, warm hugs, and kindness between classmates.
“Teaching to the best” is different from “teaching to the test.” It means find-
ing a way to engage our scholars’ genuine interest, enthusiasm, and curios-
ity for learning. It means taking the time to be creative and have fun every
day. It means teaching our scholars to be their very best selves not only
academically, but as citizens and members of a community.
So how do we do balance these elements to come out with a happy,
healthy community of children who enjoy learning and also do well on state
tests? We teach through arts integration. We talk daily about our four school
pillars: scholarship, character, craftsmanship, and purpose. And with the
support of The Chester Fund, we have the privilege and freedom to respond
nimbly to data by deploying human and financial resources to meet our
students’ particular needs.
In 2015, our PSSA scores (the required state testing in Pennsylvania in third,
fifth, and eight grades) revealed weaknesses in math, particularly in certain
classes. In response to this data, we created a new program called Math
Lab to help struggling students in
math. Math Lab is an arts-integrated
approach to teaching conceptual
The program emphasizes depth
over breadth, and interdisciplinary
studies in geometry and algebra that
combine conceptual understanding
with the strengthening of founda-
tional skills. The students develop a
strong fundamental sense of numer-
acy through construction, painting,
design, and—yes—math problems.
This is just one example of how our
arts-integrated curriculum allows us
to both “teach to the best” and prepare our children for the tests they need
In the next three years, as we add three more high school grades, our cur-
riculum will continue to develop and we will continue to adjust responsively
to what the data tells us about our students’ needs. I will keep you informed
as we enter this exciting new phase as a K-12 school! And I hope that you
will keep The Chester Fund in your giving plans. The Chester Fund helps
keep CCSA free to innovate and empowered to “teach to the best.”
‘Teaching to the
best’ is different from
‘teaching to the test.’
It means finding a way
to engage our scholars’
curiosity for learning.
By Akosua Watts,
Head of School/CEO
—Akosua Watts, Head of School/CEO
Teaching to the Best
Grade 6 tessellation projects. Below:
Head of School/CEO, Akosua Watts
with kindergarten students from left
to right: Nathan, Makhi, Malyan, and
Standing: Jahbree, Jiyyir, and Walter. Seated: Alie.
*A figure more commonly asso-
ciated with elite suburban school
districts, and statistically correlated
with higher graduation rates.
4. 4 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 5
› CCSA Today
Building Literacy Through Design
FOUR DAYS A WEEK, nearly 25
students sprawl out for an hour
in Kelly Nagle and Lisa Wilson’s
comfy classrooms to lose them-
selves in a good book. Kelly and
Lisa are members of CCSA’s
five-person Reading Intervention
team. They play a pivotal role in
creating an encouraging envi-
ronment in which our students
choose to read. Students are
motivated by prizes, reading level
moving-up ceremonies, visual
displays. But students are also
drawn in by the simple joy of a
quiet space to do what they love
After school reader,
Nasir, grade 2.
After school reader,
Noelle, grade 2.
Shakespeare and Hip Hop? Shakespeare and Hip Hop!
By Beverly Rigby, Drama Teacher
THIS YEAR, I introduced our CCSA eighth and ninth grade drama majors
to The Bard, William Shakespeare. It was not an easy task—students found
initial attempts to read Romeo and Juliet tedious at best. I knew I had to put
Shakespeare in context, but I did not want to dictate that context.
After a couple of false starts, I decided to let students select a filmmaker, author,
or playwright (they chose Tyler Perry) and to use Shakespeare as a point of com-
parison that would hold some relevance for my class.
We then analyzed Tyler Perry as a means to understanding Shakespeare’s
work and contemporary significance. Using this approach students ultimate-
ly fell in love with Shakespeare, referring to him as the Master of Ceremonies
(MC) of his generation. By the end of the trimester, we had read Romeo and
Juliet as well as sections of Macbeth and Othello.
Fun Facts About The Little Mermaid
Deja, grade 7.
the MC of the
–Dionna, grade 9*
*MC refers to Master of Ceremonies
or master wordsmith in hip-hop
and rap music.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid
May 12th at 6:30 p.m.
May 13th at 2:00 p.m.
Starring CCSA Scholars
You don’t want to miss CCSA’s
annual musical production.
To RSVP and reserve seats, please
contact Hillary Sorin at hsorin@
3,000,000 Words and Counting
By Tara Park, Seventh grade English/Social Studies Teacher
Scholastic, the nation’s largest chil-
dren’s book publisher, has an online
application for schools called
Scholastic Reading Counts (SRC).
Through SRC, children can log into
a personal account and track their
own reading progress. The child
enters the name of the book, and
the program tells the student how
many words each book contains.
The student then takes an online
test to measure reading compre-
hension, and prove that s/he read
the text. If a student scores 70% or
above on the test, the number of
words in the book is added to the
student’s personal word count.
CCSA scholars are passionate
about reading and the SRC pro-
gram spurs them on, providing
tangible goals, continuous feed-
back, and an exciting competitive
element to this quiet, individual
activity. Last year, as a school, we
read over 60 million words. Ms.
Watts had promised to complete
various amusing tasks if this goal
was reached, and so she did! She
sang the theme song from Frozen,
dressed like a clown for the day,
and participated in the ice bucket
challenge for charity. This year,
the school-wide goal is 90 million
words. What will Ms. Watts do next?
Interview with Deja
Deja, a seventh grader at CCSA and
my student, has read 3,000,000
words since September.
Tara: How many chapter books is
Deja: Roughly 78.
Deja: I want to be the best reader in
Tara: How do you feel about the SRC
Deja: It’s so fun. I love winning, but
others are gaining, so I am staying
Tara: Is it just about winning?
Deja: Yes and no. I am reading some
really awesome books—I love reading
generally. I like winning too.
Tara: What have you read?
Deja: I love serials: Twilight (read),
Sharon G. Flake books (I’ve read
every one), Bluford High (amazing),
Harry Potter (halfway done), Hunger
Games (not yet, but soon)
Tara: Favorite Author?
Deja: This one’s easy. Sharon G.
Flake! She came to CCSA.
Tara: Favorite Word?
Deja: Undefeated (she laughs)
Tara: Favorite Subject?
Tara: Favorite Project?
Deja: I am writing a play about
CCSA assesses student reading growth using the Fountas
and Pinnell Benchmark System, which measures grade
level proficiency across an A-Z gradient, with Z being the
highest level in the curriculum system.
Students work hard to reach the Z level, and every stu-
dent’s accomplishments in reading are publicly celebrat-
ed throughout the school year. CCSA has a large display
wall dedicated to reading achievement.
Ta’Vionne, grade 2, celebrates his advancement along the
reading gradient in our reading program.
› 40+ students in second through ninth grade are participating.
Students are creating all aspects of the show from choreographing
dance numbers to designing lighting and sets to conceptualizing mar-
keting and publicity.
› Little Mermaid is a community-wide production. Six faculty mem-
bers—music, arts, theater, and dance teachers—are coaching and
mentoring students throughout the production.
› Students petitioned for more rehearsal time. Last year, students
rehearsed two days a week after school for CCSA’s production of
Disney’s The Lion King. Participants felt that they would do better this
year with more rehearsal time, and petitioned to expand rehearsals
from two to four days a week.
5. 6 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 7
› Curriculum In Focus
Food for Thought
or the last two generations, Chester residents have lacked ready
access to healthy food and fresh produce. Until 2013, Chester
had been without a supermarket for 12 years, and the single
supermarket in the city at this time is a non-profit store run by
Philabundance. Chester has high incidences of obesity and related chronic
illnesses, including Type-2 Diabetes.
CCSA takes health and nutrition seriously. The context in which our students
live in Chester brings personal relevance to our curriculum focus on healthy
eating, the science of food, and the importance of environmental protec-
tion. Over 30% of our scholars live below the federal poverty level and 89%
qualify for free school meals. To meet this need and other needs that may
go unidentified, we provide 100% of our CCSA scholars with free lunch and
breakfast, and all teachers have a “share
table”—allowing students to have a healthy
snack when they are hungry.
Teaching the second grade together at CCSA
for the past four years, we have learned that
many of our students take on considerable
By Nicole DeRitis
and Nicola Robinson,
Second Grade Faculty Team
responsibility for feeding themselves.
This reality has highlighted for us the
importance of studying food and
nutrition from the earliest grades.
After changing our own eating and
exercise habits, we made the deci-
sion to add an integrated year-long
unit for our second grade students
covering biology, environmental sci-
ence, nutrition, and personal health.
In science, we read about the food
chain and learn about how food
affects life, energy, and health. We
learn about photosynthesis, and we
create beautiful, technical drawings
of the process of pollination.
In English, we write persuasive essays
about the importance of environ-
mental preservation. In music, Dr.
John Alston is composing an opera
for our students about the life cycle.
In social studies, we learn about envi-
We always try to make the program
as hands-on and interactive as pos-
sible. We will be taking field trips to
support the unit, and hope to visit
Longwood Gardens in the spring
to learn about bees and pollination
This spring, we also hope to part-
ner with volunteers to build raised
beds, and plant and tend vege-
tables. In the late spring, we aim
to host a Friend’s Farm Stand (we
call each other “Friends” in second
Scholars Living Below
the Federal Poverty Line
Scholars Qualifying for
Free School Meals
Below: Nicole DeRitis and her class
of second grade, Friends. Right:
De’Andre, grade 2.
Clockwise from top: Ms. Robinson
and second graders dancing in class
together, Neah; Lilianna, Ny’Anah,
grade), selling produce and serv-
ing soup made from produce we
have grown. This will allow our
students to apply their skills and
think about the economics of food.
If you can spend some time sup-
porting and tending to our raised
beds, please contact Hillary Sorin at
email@example.com or (610)
6. 8 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 9
› After School Highlights › Faculty Profile
Zachary, grade 5: I love that it’s
Bruce, grade 7: Math is my
favorite subject, but probability
and fractions are really difficult.
My teachers said it would get eas-
ier if I worked on my math facts.
This game has helped.
TaShawna, grade 9: I want to be
a brain surgeon, and you have to
be really good at math and sci-
ence. You have to be really quick.
24 Club makes me think fast and
it requires accuracy.
What Club Members Think:
Right: Bruce, grade 7. Below, Clifton,
Zachary, and Jabryl, grades 5 with
fter graduating from Temple
University last spring,
Danielle Harrington knew
she wanted to work in urban educa-
tion, and that she wanted to teach
math. “I am a serious math nerd, but
I also love theater. I never felt that
math was something that you had to
do sitting down. Math is an experi-
ence. Math is everywhere. CCSA’s
arts-integrated approach to learning
was compelling. Math and theater
can be taught together. CCSA has
enabled me to do both.”
As a seventh grade teaching appren-
tice, Danielle works under the
guidance of two mentor teachers.
“It’s no secret that teaching is chal-
lenging, and it’s especially hard the
first year, but I have been able to
learn and experiment with my peda-
gogy.” At CCSA, new teachers receive
constant coaching and support from
Danielle was particularly inspired
this year by CCSA’s successful
gamification of reading through the
Scholastic Reading Counts program.
Gamification is the application of
game-playing elements to something
that does not usually involve such
elements—for example, point scoring,
levelling up, competition, and rules of
play. After seeing faculty success with
the gamification of literacy, Danielle
determined to apply the same princi-
ples of gamification to math educa-
tion at CCSA.
Not one to let the grass grow under
her feet, she has already successfully
gamified some elements of middle
school math through “24 Club.”
What is 24 Club? 24 Club uses the 24
card game to build math and critical
thinking skills. The club members
play a math game using four num-
bers and any operation to reach the
targeted answer, 24.
Who can participate? Students in
grades fifth through ninth. The club
runs twice weekly for an hour.
What’s the object of the game?
Make the number 24 from the four
numbers on a game card. You can
add, subtract, multiply and divide. You
must use all four numbers on the
card, but use each number only once.
Can you answer the card below?*
eaching Math at CCSA is
a dream job for me. I pre-
viously worked with young
men and women who were return-
ing to school after dropping out for
various reasons. My focus was to
prepare young people for careers by
helping them achieve a high school
diploma or GED. As the High School
Coordinator and Math Teacher for
eighth and ninth grades at CCSA,
I have a unique opportunity to be
involved with designing a high school
program that will meet the particular
needs and aspirations of our stu-
dents. It’s a wonderful thing to be
building something from the ground
up rather than fixing something on
the back end.
It’s a wonderful
thing to be building
something from the
ground up rather than
fixing something on the
back end. —Brian Holm
This Is A Dream Job
By Brian Holm, High School Coordinator, Eighth and Ninth Grade Math Teacher
By Michelle Robinson, K-7 Principal
Brian Holm at work teaching data, probability, and statistics to eighth grade
Above: Example of an arts-integrated
7. 10 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 11
› Celebrating Our History
t CCSA, we study African
American history all year
long, not just in February.
In September, our first graders began
the school year by sharing their
hopes in preparation for their study
of Faith Ringgold’s, My Dream Of
Martin Luther King. In response to
that story, the children shared the
• I hope I read books.
• I hope we share crayons.
• I hope we learn about dinosaurs.
• I hope I will have a friend.
• I hope nobody gets hurt.
• I hope we don’t fight.
• I wish we can all be friends
There are many more hopes, all as
honest, elegant, and important as
those mentioned above. Consider
the many ideas the children thought
about in this lesson: generosity,
Kenny, grade 1.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise. —Maya Angelou
Above: Skyy and
Dai’Omi, grade 6.
How is it in heaven?
Are you changing the
laws up there too?Dear Dr. King, Did your feet hurt?
–Saniyah, pictured with her friend Razhae –Reagan’s piece, above
Singing With Maya
By Frank Hosking, Music Teacher
Marching With Martin
By Hillary Sorin, Director of Development
curiosity, and friendship. Since then,
the students have dug deeper into
the life and significance of Dr. King.
They were particularly interested
in learning about Dr. King’s time
as a seminary student at Crozer
Theological Seminary. It was at Crozer
in Chester that Dr. King strengthened
his commitment to social good and
developed his interest in Gandhian
ideas about nonviolence as a method
of social reform. If not for his time
in Chester, America might be a very
In response to their studies, our first
graders were determined to thank Dr.
King for his help improving the lives of
When the children wrote letters to Dr.
King, they were thinking about history,
For more letters, visit www.
his trimester, for 12 of
my middle school music
majors, it wasn’t enough
just singing and learning the music of
gospel singer Kirk Franklin for a winter
chorus performance. They wanted to
compose their own music. As a class,
they selected Maya Angelou’s “Still I
Rise,” to see if they could translate a
poem to song. They succeeded! To
hear CCSA’s music majors sing their
version of “Still I Rise,” visit www.
I asked the students this question:
“You had to learn several new songs
for your winter performance—a lot of
work—why did you decide to create
additional work for yourselves by
fashioning this project?” Here are
“Maya is a beautiful person and pow-
erful poet. We wanted to honor her
during Black History Month.” —Jayda,
“She’s a hero to me. I think we all
wanted to honor her, sing her words,
and give them new meaning through
music.” —Dai'Omi, grade 6.
“It was really interesting learning
about the music, the chords, the style
of the song. It was challenging!”
—Raelyn, grade 7.
“We learned that Maya used her
poetry and art to talk about what she
experienced and what she saw. Her
writing was her voice, and she used it
to change the world.” —Skyy, grade 6.
My response, was simple, “As artists
and writers, you can change the
Yari, grade 7 with fellow music
8. 12 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 13
This is what great 21st
century education looks
like. CCSA is pioneering
future of education. CCSA
is giving Chester children
multiple opportunities to
learn and discover.
› Class Notes › Mid-Year Makings
Highlights From Our Visual Arts Program21st Century Perspectives
Dr. John Alston, Founder and President, The Chester Fund
Amari, grade 1.
Khadijah, grade 6.
grade 7 with Dr.
John Alston. Right:
Markell in Visual Arts
class with Alison
Jean-Pierre, grade 1.
Chania, grade 4.
Nathan, grade 6 and Daveigh, grade 6.
Markell, grade 8 with
Rahmee, grade 1. Peyton, grade 2. Akeem, grade 8.
or much of the spring
semester, Markell, an
eighth grade boy, has been
thinking deeply about the Chester
Crozer Library. He and the other
CCSA Visual Arts majors were each
assigned a Chester landmark to
represent artistically, and were asked
to learn about its historical and social
In his artistic statement, Markell
writes: “I really like the mural and,
honestly, I thought it would be the
easiest to represent‚ at first. I have
walked past Chester Crozer public
library many times, but I don’t fre-
quently go—I don’t need to because
I have so many books at school that
I can read and take home whenever
I want. What surprised me though
is that the public library is now only
open three days a week, and the
hours are short. If you go to another
school in Chester, you don’t have
the same access to books, and if
you’re a kid you can’t go to the
library without a parent, and if your
parent is working you don’t have
any access to books at all. What’s
the point of a library if children can’t
Markell’s observations exemplify the
impact of critical exposure to new
perspectives that CCSA’s program
provides through arts integration and
project-based learning. In visual arts
this year, eighth and ninth grades are
studying the history and preservation
of Chester’s historical architecture.
Through this project, the children are
developing craftsmanship through
the creation of personal renderings
of Chester landmarks that they have
identified and selected to research.
Students are also required to devel-
op artist statements that reflect on
their chosen landmark, its original
purpose, environmental and histor-
ical context, and present day use,
relevance, and meaning.
This project is just one example of
how CCSA’s program not only builds
academic competency and artistic
craftsmanship, but also leads stu-
dents like Markell to see their role
in society in a new light. One day,
Markell and students like him will be
our leaders, increasing library access,
addressing issues of educational in-
equality, and filling their city and the
world with beautiful art.
— Steve Piltch, Head of School, The Shipley School,
Board Trustee, The Chester Charter School
for the Arts
9. 14 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 15
› Athletic Highlights
By Dorothy Dill, School Nurse, Girls Assistant Basketball Coach, and Mom (Dionna and Donovan)
By Gary Hines, Boys Basketball Coach and School Safety Coordinator
Basketball is a way to get
away from the bad things in
the community; it helps us
get off the street…We’re not
involved in the stupid stuff.
—Sierra, grade 9
Above: Nurse Dill (in her day job as CCSA’s full time nurse), gives Riniyah,
grade 4, an eye exam. Below: Left to right: Rahnaezah, Alexis, and Sierra.
Pictured: Left to Right: Kabree, Coach Gary Hines, Jaymon, and team captain, Devante.
INTERVIEW WITH TEAM
CAPTAIN, DEVANTE, GRADE 9
FAVORITE SUBJECT: Math and
ROLE MODEL: Mr. Read (Math
Lab Instructor/ Visual Arts
Teacher) and Mrs. Watts (Head of
HOW MANY YEARS AT CCSA?
HIGHLIGHT THIS YEAR: Playing
Episcopal (and winning!)
SPRING SPORT: Lacrosse
have often said to young
athletes, “Failure is not a bad
thing, if you fail forward.”
Failing forward is when you take a
loss, face something difficult, reflect
on it and apply the lessons learned.
This winter, the CCSA Sabers failed
After 20-plus years of coaching
experience, I promised myself “never
again!” I was hired in the fall to sup-
port CCSA’s growth by coordinating
safety functions, including drop-off,
pick-up, and facility oversight. Serving
more students every single year,
CCSA had a need for this new role
and I was thrilled to join the school.
Not long after I started, I was asked
to coach the boys’ basketball team.
I see the boys come off the bus,
welcome them to school, and check
in on them during the day, so “never
again” became “sure, I’ll coach!”
Eighteen kids signed on, many of
whom had never played on a team.
In the process of becoming a team,
we discovered that there is more to
playing than winning. The players
showed spirit, camaraderie, courage
in the face of defeat, collaboration
(no ball hogging for us) and eventual-
ly discipline. It was a tough season—
one of our boys lost a brother—but
the team learned to establish goals
together and demonstrate sports-
manship, integrity, and character.
I will never forget bringing the boys
to play against Episcopal Academy.
When we walked into the athletic
facilities, we saw a pool and four bas-
ketball courts. It was a lot for our boys
to take in, but they played well and
won the game.
After the season, we reflected on
what we learned together. Jaymon,
grade 9, said, “I learned how to play...
it was my first time playing on a
sports team.” Devante added, “I came
to like you, Coach! You wanted the
best from us. I didn’t always see that
I like you too, Devante, and I look
forward to seeing you on the court
again next year.
ashtag (#) Like a Girl is
trending on social media as
part of a national campaign
to reclaim what it means to do things
“like a girl.” In sports, the phrase is
often used as an insult and results in
both boys and girls internalizing the
message that girls are less capable
and powerful than boys. CCSA is
working to disrupt that message.
I am a Chester native, basketball fan,
and mom of two CCSA scholars. I am
also CCSA’s school nurse and the girls’
assitant basketball coach. Our new bas-
ketball team of fifteen seventh, eighth,
and ninth graders is proving that doing
things #Like a CCSA Girl is amazing.
Despite limited practice space, our
team ran laps, drilled and conditioned
for two hours a day four days a week.
The team worked hard, not only on
the court, but also in their classes.
Every player made distinguished hon-
or roll or honor roll. “We really wanted
to learn to play, and we wanted to
be with each other,” explained ninth
grader Rahnaezah. “If our grades
dipped at all, we couldn’t play.”
For Sierra, grade 9, playing basketball
is also about safety. “Every trimester,
I sign up for as many after-school
activities as I can. Basketball is a way
to get away from the bad things in
the community; it helps us get off
the street... We’re not involved in the
stupid stuff.” And for Alexis, grade 8,
basketball is about team spirit and collaboration. “We're so com-
fortable with each other. We’re best friends.”
For nearly all of the girls it was their first time playing basketball.
They finished the season with a 1:10 record, but new skills and
healthy habits made the season. So what does it mean to do
things #Like a CCSA Girl? means #strength, #pride, #dedication,
#perseverance, #friendship, #community, #responsibility and so
10. 16 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 17
› Denyce Graves in Concert
Sometimes An Experience Goes Beyond
By Eric Del Viscio, Benefit Co-Chair, Vice President, The Chester Fund Board of Directors
A Thank You Essay for Denyce Graves
By Mindy Nguyen, First Grade Teacher
Four years ago, our last year at CUSA,* I was
lucky enough to receive a class of amazing students.
You know those rare and wonderful years where everything is
working in concert: their academic ability, their love for learning,
their willingness to work hard, their enthusiastic curiosity. We were
able to do investigative projects, Vocabulary Conversation Café, and we
discovered “Secret Squirrel” (ask me about him later). As an educator, you
understand that the students you get are the product of all the teachers that came
before you. This group was particularly fun to teach because they had been at our
school since they were three years old. They had already internalized the culture of
learning. They knew the behavioral expectations. They had come to expect an arts-in-
tegrated environment before they ever came to me. Their learning was efficient, and
so student-driven that I felt like I was teaching at an independent school.
That year was a gift: well-rounded readers, dancers, mathematicians, artists, writers,
scientists, athletes, and singers, truly, a Renaissance class. But even in this group of
memorable children, one student stood out—Kanazja. She did it all with ease, joy,
charm, grace, wit and LOTS of energy. One thing she was not, was still. If we were
standing, Kanazja was in her seat. If we were in our seats, she was on the floor. If we
were on the floor, she was standing. I tried strategy after strategy to help her keep her
body calm, but nothing worked.
Finally, we read a biography about Marian Anderson. We learned that she was born in
Philadelphia. We learned about her singing at the Lincoln Memorial. We learned about
opera singers, and we learned that she was the first black singer to perform at the Met.
And that’s when I got Kanazja.
One very meaningful lesson within our study of opera turned out to be “Opera Singer
Stance.” Fingers linked, body tall, shoulders back, eyes up, smile ready. When I said,
“Marian Anderson Pose!” everyone did it, even Kanazja! She loved singing (she is now
in the Chester Children’s Chorus) and identified with Marian Anderson so much that it
became our code phrase. Every time I said “Marian Anderson Pose” Kanazja remembered
to calm her body and stand up straight. It was the most gratifying gift for a teacher.
When I heard we were inviting selected students to the Denyce Graves Benefit
Concert, I made sure that Kanazja was invited. I happen to teach Kanazja’s little sister,
Ty’Jani, so she got to tag-along to the concert. Ty’Jani
also loves singing and also has LOTS of energy. When
Denyce graciously stayed for pictures after the concert,
the sisters were able to meet her. She picked up Ty’Jani,
who said, “I want to be you when I grow up.”
So now, the code phrase for this year’s first grade is...
“Denyce Graves Pose.” (I have even resorted to asking,
“Do you think Denyce Graves acted like that in first
grade?” That works too.)
I want to
be you when
I grow up.
—Ty’Jani to Denyce
Founding first grade
teacher, Mindy Nguyen
and Deb Bergstrand.
Honoree Maurice Eldridge Denyce
Graves, and Board Chair, Jay McEntee.
CCSA scholars and Head of School/CEO Akosua Watts
pose with Denyce Graves.
*In 2008, The Chester Fund entered into a private-public partnership with the Chester Upland School District to
develop and run CUSA, which opened in the 2008-2009 school year. In the fall of 2011, when CUSA’s staff was
significantly restructured as a result of state education funding cuts, The Chester Fund opened CCSA.
grade 1 meets
Perri Evanson and
dad, Ken Wright.
and Julia Welbon.
Event co chair, Joanne Hanna and
Akosua Watts with Dr. Barbara Klock,
Salem Shuchman, and their boys, Jaiden
Super Volunteer, Scott Jenkins, welcomes
Joel Zarrow, Helen Nadel, and Susan
Eric and Renee Del Viscio. Pete Thompson, Mona Hanford, and
n December 1, 2015, we
hosted our first benefit star-
ring opera singer Denyce
Graves, and honoring Maurice
Eldridge. Maybe you, or someone
you know, attended the event at
Christ Church Philadelphia. Our
events committee, chaired by Joanne
Hanna, ensured that the event was
well-publicized and well-attended.
Looking around the Church, we saw a
diverse group of people from all over
the five county region (and New York
City, Washington D.C., Boston and
even Barrington, RI), catching up with
friends and enjoying a world-class
evening of music. It occurred to me,
as I looked around that night, that the
scene in Christ Church was a vision of
With arts education at an all-time low
nationally, these opportunities are
rarer than ever in our public schools.
With your support, more than 50
CCSA scholars attended the event.
The benefit concert was also CCSA’s
coming out party in Philadelphia. It
was an opportunity for us to make the
case for the arts in education, and an
opportunity to engage new individu-
als and groups in our work.
We thank all who attended and sup-
ported the Concert! The event raised
over $200,000 for our programs. We
sold out Christ Church and surpassed
our fundraising expectations. Special
thanks go to Joanne for her gracious
and tireless work as co-chair; to Christ
Church for being a wonderful host; to
Denyce Graves, who is an inspiration
to all of us; and to Maurice (Sir M!),
who we love so dearly.
11. 18 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 19
› Volunteer Profile
t CCSA, we refer to our first Annual Fund Co-Chairs, Abbie and
Dave Rowley, as our “Lifeguards,” but Abbie likes to say, “We’re just
Beach Bums!” Over the past 18 months, the Rowleys have spent
countless hours reading with our students as volunteers in CCSA’s
weekly literacy program for kindergartners, “Reading Beach Club.”
At Reading Beach Club, the children, the Rowleys, and other volunteers—
many of whom the Rowleys have introduced to the program—sit on towels
and read in CCSA’s kindergarten community space filled with gorgeous envi-
ronmental murals, installed three times a year by avid volunteers.
The readers try to come every week to CCSA’s beach, which helps to build
a strong rapport between these volunteer storytellers and their students.
Most weeks, Abbie and Dave are on the beach with kindergarteners Sah’Mia,
DeVaughn, Anastasia and Daimir.
Once a month Abbie and Dave reunite with fist graders, Taeveon and Kirk,
from last year’s program. Taeveon calls Abbie his “second best friend,” and Kirk
lights up when “Mr. Dave” is mentioned.
Abbie and Dave’s commitment has been critical to this program, which
helps provide our little scholars with a strong literacy foundation. And the
Rowleys aren’t done with us yet! We are honored that they have accepted
the inaugural role of Annual Fund Co-Chairs on behalf of The Chester Fund.
This means that you will be hearing more from them in the coming months
about our programs and ways in
which volunteers and donors can
continue to make a difference at
We heartily thank Abbie and Dave for
bringing so much sunshine to our
beach and to Chester!
Become a CCSA Storyteller by email-
ing Hillary Sorin at hsorin@theches-
terfund.org or call (610) 859-2988.
See you on the beach!
Giving to and fundraising for The Chester Fund are ways that Annual Fund
Co-Chairs Abbie and Dave Rowley feel that they can connect with young
people and help them to mature into well-educated and productive citizens.
Why We Give
Abbie: I love having the opportunity to be with the kids and getting to know
them on a 1:1 level. We’ve seen first hand the impact that CCSA is having
and where our gifts are put to good use.
Dave: CCSA scholars are enthusiastic learners, well-behaved and show great
respect for adults, attributes which are not always seen in our school envi-
ronments these days. It is apparent that the teachers at CCSA are teaching
and instilling a strong sense of character.
Choosing The Beach Every Friday Afternoon
Dave: I love the look on the children’s faces as they run to greet us at the
start of our reading sessions—excitement, anticipation—it is very inspirational!
From Church Talk to Volunteer
Abbie: I first learned about CCSA through John Alston’s visits to Swarthmore
Presbyterian Church. His presentation was powerful! I began volunteering
as a teacher’s aide to Ms. Parks’ seventh grade English/Social Studies Class. I
currently read weekly with students and am excited to begin leading fund-
Watching Them Grow
Dave: Our children are our greatest asset and it is very rewarding to see
them grow into mature and responsible young people under our tutelage.
It is the same motivation that led me to be involved in the A Better Chance
program as an academic advisor and to spend many years as a coach in the
Swarthmore Recreation Association, and Haven Youth Lacrosse program, as
well as my involvement in the McCabe Scholarship Program at Swarthmore
College. The opportunity to support kids at CCSA for 13 years—taking them
from K through twelfth grade—is really exciting for me.
Abbie: It’s what makes our marriage so special—that shared commitment
to children and service. I’ve grown up with the mantra in my family of
giving back to the community, from working for Habitat for Humanity in
Washington, D.C, tutoring inner-city children in New Haven, CT, working
with A Better Chance, Swarthmore Recreation Association, and Swarthmore
Presbyterian Church, and now volunteering at CCSA.
A Message to New Supporters
Abbie: One word comes to mind when describing CCSA to friends and family
—“rewarding.” We hope the feeling is mutual! When a child runs to you to
throw his/her arms around you with bright eyes and a bright smile, it seems so.
Introducing This Year’s Annual Fund Co-Chairs
Abbie with Sa’Mia and DeVaughn
enjoying some CCSA sunshine and a
Dave on CCSA’s Beach with his Kindergarten reader, Daimir. Above right:
Kirk, Dave’s first grade reader. Right: Taeveon, Abbie’s first grade reader.
An Interview with Abbie and Dave Rowley
Lifeguarding with The Chester Fund
By Wendy Emrich, Secretary/ Treasurer, The Chester Fund Board of Directors
I love having the
opportunity to be with
the kids and getting to
know them on a 1:1
level. —Abbie Rowley
12. 20 | The Chester Fund Magazine Spring 2016 | 21
› Giving Update › Milestones & News
Help Grow The Chester Fund
DID YOU KNOW?
Last year, 792 students, parents,
faculty, staff and friends made an
annual fund gift to The Chester
Fund for Education and the Arts.
THE LARGEST GIFT
6 years old
99 years old
The Caroline Alexander Buck Foundation award enables CCSA to expand
its arts programs to high school students.
› In January of 2016, CCSA was
named a recipient of the competi-
tive 21st Century Learning Centers
grant, a federal grant that gives
exceptional public schools $1.2
million over three years to support
before-school, after-school, and
› In 2015, CCSA was named a
by The Caroline Alexander Buck
Foundation, receiving $200,000
over two school years to support
the development of CCSA’s high
school arts program.
› In the summer of 2015, CCSA
settled litigation with the Chester
Upland School District, which
guarantees sustainable per-pupil
reimbursement rates for Charter
schools for the foreseeable future.
In his decision in court, Judge
Kenney wrote, “Chester Charter
School for the Arts has reached
an iconic stature in this county to
the point that a blow to it would
be a blow to the entire Delaware
› Dr. Barbara Klock, MD, a
board certified pedi-
atrician, has joined
CCSA’s board. Her life
has always revolved
around kids from
clowning at children’s
birthday parties as a stu-
dent at Swarthmore College, to
teaching kindergarten and eighth
grade, to completing her residen-
cy in pediatrics at Yale School of
Medicine. She cared for children
in private practice for over fifteen
years with The Children’s Hospital
of Philadelphia Care Network, and
recently launched her own busi-
ness, Dr. Klock Talks to support
parents and children as they grow
› Robert Speare, Esq., a lifelong
resident of Delaware County, has
joined The Chester Fund board.
Reb is a partner in Speare and
Hughey and the Managing Trustee
of the Nathan Speare Foundation.
He currently serves as board chair
of the Crozer Chester Foundation
and previously served on the
board of the Delaware County
On the Team
› We welcome new high school
faculty Brian Holm; Math
Tara Kane, Science; Lindsay
Southworth, History, Frank
Vaccaro, English, and Alison
Maddex, Visual Arts.
› The Chester Fund team is grow-
ing! We recently welcomed Keren
White as Executive Director and
Amy Komarnicki as Development
Manager. Hillary Sorin has been
promoted to the position of
Director of Development.
› 6th Grade Math/Science Teacher
Theresa Cummings has been
selected to receive a Franklin Mint
Federal Credit Union Excellence in
Teaching Award, representing the
Chester-Upland School District.
YOUR GIFT WILL HELP
OUR SCHOOL GROW!
AT ANY LEVEL
FOR OUR CCSA
$721,459.43RAISED TO DATE FOR FISCAL YEAR 2015-2016
The Chester Fund directly benefits all CCSA Scholars by providing enriching
academic, arts, and athletic experiences.
Where does my gift go? The school district allocation per student does not
cover the full cost of CCSA’s exceptional educational programs. Gifts to The
Chester Fund allow the School’s faculty and administration to go the extra
mile and provide the “CCSA difference”. The Chester Fund’s annual goal is
to raise $2,000 per student. With almost 500 students this year, our annual
fund goal this school year is $1,000,000.
When should I give? To help us meet our goal, please give before our fiscal
year ends on June 30, 2016.
How can I give? You can send a
check payable to The Chester Fund
at CCSA, 200 Commerce Drive,
Aston, PA 19014.
You can give online at www.
Stock Gifts: We accept gifts of
Planned Giving: Make The Chester
Fund part of your will or estate plans,
and leave a legacy.
Tax-free IRA Gifts: For those 70½
or older, it is once again possible
to make tax-favored charitable gifts
from IRA accounts.
If you have questions about giving
to The Chester Fund, please contact
Hillary Sorin at hsorin@thechester-
13. 200 Commerce Drive
Aston, PA 19014
21ST CENTURY PERSPECTIVES
A Pop Up Art Show featuring new works
by CCSA scholar-artists.
SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2016, at 3:15 P.M.
following a recital by acclaimed organist Philippe Lefebvre
of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, at 2:00 p.m.
The Witherspoon Parlor at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church
625 Montgomery Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO BMPC’S FINE ARTS COUNCIL
The exhibit will be open to the public
April 5 – May 10
Mondays – Fridays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For further details, please contact
firstname.lastname@example.org / (610) 859-2988.
The Chester Charter School for the Arts is a non-profit public charter school. CCSA does not discriminate in admission, access
to, or participation in its programs on the basis of disability, race, color, religion, creed, sexual orientation, citizenship, national or
ethnic origin. There are no selective academic admissions requirements to attend. However, priority is given to families living in
the Chester Upland School District.
Ashanti, grade 9.
This isn’t just great for CCSA or Chester, it’s the type of education
everybody should be doing. — Steve Piltch, Head of School, The Shipley School,
Board Trustee, The Chester Charter School for the Arts