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Penn Treaty 8th Graders Can Shine
Penn Treaty eighth grade students took part in a life skills training program, We Can Shine, that helped give the students a greater understanding of themselves. Photo: Matthew Wiley
Penn Treaty eighth grade students took part in a life skills training program, We Can Shine, that helped give the students a greater understanding of themselves. Photo: Matthew Wiley

There are limited opportunities provided for today’s inner city kids. With a difficult economy, jobs are scarce and youth aren’t offered the same part-time jobs they were being offered 5 or 10 years ago. We Can Shine, a program under the direction of Steve Fleisher at Penn Treaty Middle School, is an intense life skills training program that aims to provide a viable alternative to today’s mean streets. The program looks to address the lack of employment currently facing young adults by providing them with training and mentorship.

But what is an intense life skills training program? The program, opened to 8th graders at Penn Treaty Middle School, ran for one full week, from June 15 to 19, the last week of school, from 8am to 2:28pm. During this time, the students learned 1 of 5 different service business skills. The choices were car cleaning and waxing, window washing for small business storefronts, shoe shining, babysitting certified by the Red Cross, and flower design and sales.

Fleischer stresses that this program is not for individuals that already have jobs. "I told the kids that this isn’t for someone that always has good after-school or summer jobs. However, if you have ever dreamt or seriously thought of being a young entrepreneur, and of becoming a better and more responsible and confident individual, then this 5-day training camp is exactly what you are looking for," says Fleisher.

But We Can Shine is more than just job training. Boasting motivational speakers, life saving skills, and confidence building, We Can Shine and Steve Fleisher seek to help these kids learn the "skills to pay the bills" while also giving them a greater understanding of themselves and others, resulting in improved relations with family, friends, and authority figures.

In addition to intense learning, the program brings in amazing and interesting people to help the students. One very interesting note is that the guests show up "on their own time and on their own dime," as Fleisher likes to say. The presenters range from a Cheese Steak King to the City Fire Commissioner. Ray Ruiz and Nate Miller, both Philadelphia natives, both presenters during We Can Shine, grew up to be extremely successful boxers. Ruiz raised 4 daughters and Miller recently retired from the Housing Authority.

Tony Luke Jr. also addressed the kids. Owning one of the best Cheese Steak shops in the city, he told the kids how his hard work has paid off. He, like Miller and Ruiz, was once an inner city youth trying to figure out which direction his life would go. He now owns cheese steak shops worldwide, as well as a movie studio and a frozen food business.

All of these presenters have come to help out Fleisher, who is clearly passionate about helping his students. Overcoming his own tough odds in life, Fleisher runs the program while nursing a broken jaw. He never says how much it hurts, but he wanted this program to work for the kids so strongly that he delayed surgery for weeks to make sure the program could run. "The name of the program is We Can Shine, and that means shining a light on even the darkest of lives," Fleisher says through the pain.

But this isn’t Fleisher’s first venture into helping inner-city youth. He specializes in conflict resolution and safe solutions at Penn Treaty Middle School, and also runs the Kids At Crossroads Program. The Kids At Crossroads program has been extremely effective, but after realizing kids need job and life skills as well, Fleisher decided to launch the We Can Shine program.

This was the pilot year for the program, but already response has been overwhelmingly positive. It seems as though everyone was present for the event. A media crew, friends and family, even the principal of the school, Sam Howell. "Mr. Fleischer is a great teacher. This is an excellent program, and Mr. Fleischer has been a gift since arriving at Penn Treaty. He cares, and the kids know he cares," said Howell. And that really is the most important thing. When faced with tough odds, sometimes all it takes is one person to believe in you to make you want to succeed. For these kids, Mr. Fleischer is that person.

Reader Opinions
Trula Sfarnastsfarnas@aol.com
JUL 28 • Mr. Steve Fleisher serves as an outstanding role model for youth. Penn Treaty Middle School is fortunate to have a teacher that truly cares about each and every student. His students will have much to offer the world, thanks to Mr. Fleisher's inspiration and guidance. Bravo & keep up the excellent work!
Adam Waxmanadwax@aol.com
JUL 08 • I have known Steve my entire life and can say he has devoted his life to kids. As a young man he would always help out under privileged people formally and informally. We could rarely travel in Philadelphia without someone seeing him and giving him a big hug, and telling me how he had helped them, and many times the people would say they would be dead if not for Steve. He is loved and respected throughout the city and beyond! Thank you for this recognition of such an important person!
Robert Fleishernovelsmith@gmail.com
JUL 07 • As Steve's brother, I have had the opportunity to watch him develop these programs and I can tell you, he is the best at relating to kids who don't have all the advantages. He is passionate about his students and they have a great deal of respect for him as he does for them. That may be one of the secrets. I have heard him tell kids who are acting up how he respects them and he needs them to offer the same respect to him and they immedidatley calm down, not wanting to lose his valued guidance. Steve is truly a blessing for so many children. Schools all over the country should model programs after that which he has put together and the kids would really shine.
maryanne barowskibarowsk27@gmail.com
JUL 07 • I love to see positive news stories about people who go above and beyond to mentor others. I think we don't realize how many times our children's teachers go out of their way to set them on the right path. You go, Steve Fleisher!!
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