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
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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