Philly’s Phinest Profile: Jamie McKnight
By Joe Vallee at 1:01 am on Wednesday June 17, 2009
If you think you’ve seen Jamie McKnight before, chances are you probably have.
McKnight has been in the news quite a bit recently. She is part of Teens 4 Good, a social youth entrepreneurship program building long-term, working relationships with promising students attending Philadelphia’s public high schools. T4G is a program of the Federation of Neighborhood Centers. The organization was honored this past spring by the Philadelphia Phillies with a City of Champions Award, during their week-long Paint the Town Red celebration prior to Opening Day 2009. The Phillies were honoring nine community members who really make a difference, and T4G was recognized as one of them.
McKnight’s work in the Philadelphia community has earned her a nomination for the “All Stars Among Us” campaign, sponsored by People Magazine. If Jamie wins the contest, she’ll represent the Philadelphia Phillies in the All-Star Game in St. Louis on July 14th, 2009. We’ll show you how to vote for Jamie later. But in order to tell her story in the present, we’re going to talk about the path she took to get here.
Jamie McKnight was born and raised in Ewing, New Jersey. After moving to Chalfont, Pennsylvania in the early 1990’s, she began working with Philadelphia Cares, a local volunteer organization. Although McKnight’s background is in business and banking, environmental issues were always close to her heart.
“While volunteering for many a clean up, I could see the immediate impact I was making in someone else’s life and environment,” McKnight explains. “I had to find a way to make a greater impact, and one thing just led to another. The next thing you know, I am helping a community in Olney build a garden at Fisher Park. This garden was bringing people out to the park who hadn’t been seen in years. Those who I was working with were so grateful to have the garden, and I am proud to say that it is still growing strong and with each year there have been additions to their ‘Roots’ garden.”
From there McKnight moved on to Teens 4 Good, which provides high school students with the skills, confidence and support needed to enter and complete college, attain and sustain challenging jobs, perform effectively in the workplace and make choices that lead to successful and meaningful lives. At the same time, T4G fosters creativity by converting negative, blighted vacant lots into positive urban green spaces, which add beauty to the neighborhood and uplift the pride and self-confidence of teens through their own work. Thanks to T4G, there are now seven community gardens located throughout Philadelphia, which will employ approximately 70 youths this summer. Collectively in 2008, T4G grew 2,000 lbs of produce and donated about a third of that to the local food cupboards through Philadelphia Green’s City Harvest Program. You can find their website at: http://www.federationnc.org/Teens-4-Good.page Or go to www.federationnc.org and find them under ”˜Programs.’
McKnight’s students actually get paid for a six week internship, and by summer’s end, they are clearly seeing the fruits of their labor in more ways than one.
“This summer, the students are going to really work hard on developing a product that we can put our label on,” McKnight says proudly. “From that,James and Jamar they will learn how to market and sell that product and how to develop some kind of business plan that will help them meet their goals. There is also a health and nutrition component in this six-week internship, where the youth will learn about the food they are growing and how to maintain healthy lifestyles. All of this just from cleaning a forgotten space and greening a piece of their communities. T4G is looking toward the future. We are looking into plans to build a youth agriculture training center for youth from around the city, fully equipped w/greenhouse and farming space, to learn how to grow seedlings for our many gardens and to participate in community workshops and markets. We are also looking at working in the city’s pocket parks. By restoring these parks, we will help give them back to the communities.”
McKnight’s hard work and determination have payed off. She recently received her “All Stars” nomination for her work in Teens 4 Good, and in between handing out awards to Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel and Phillies All-Stars Chase Utley and Brad Lidge, she also found time to appear on 610 WIP radio the next day to promote T4G.
“What an amazing opportunity this is for Teens 4 Good,” mentions McKnight. “This is a chance for us to reach out to the Philadelphia region and not just to tell our story. We have the opportunity to actually represent all of Philadelphia in St. Louis at the All-Star Game. The nomination is very humbling because there were hundreds of nominees, and to get to the next level is very exciting!
(Vote for Jamie below!!!)
Despite the accolades, McKnight shifts her focus to the greater cause.
“We know we’ve made a difference in the youth who have worked with us when three things happen. First, they start to realize the value of what is going on w/T4G. Secondly, when they tell us they want to come back and work with us every summer and lastly, when we have graduating seniors talk about their experience w/T4G and the first thing they say is how T4G inspired them to do something positive with their lives. That is what it’s all about. That is why we keep working to give the youth in the city opportunities. All of your problems of the day just kind of go away when you realize that you have somehow helped a teenager realize their potential and look on to bigger things in life.”
It doesn’t matter whether Jamie McKnight makes the trip to St. Louis or not in July. In the eyes of many, she’s already an All-Star.
To vote for Jamie, go to: www.peopleallstars.com and click on the Phillies logo. When you do, you will see the 3 finalist’s pictures and their stories. Then click on Jamie’s picture-you can vote up to 25 times a day!
Director, Teens 4 Good
Federation of Neighborhood Centers
1315 Walnut Street, Suite 1401
Philadelphia, PA 19107
T: 215.989.3566, #1108; F: 215.989.3568