Editorial: The six miles to Norristown can be an education in itself

By Mallory Terrence
September 11, 2008


Radnor Township is located in the heart of the Philadelphia Main Line, an area with some of the wealthiest zip codes in America. Yet only miles away from Radnor is a community that seems to be a complete world away.

An area that was once known for its retail shopping and home to many manufacturing plants, Norristown, Pa. has 17 percent of its residents living below the poverty level.

According to the census in 2000, the median income for a household in Norristown was $35,714, while the median income for a household in Radnor was $74,272.

Cabrini College’s partnership with Norristown allows students to see the differences and learn from our neighbors who often live a much different lifestyle first hand. The partnership with Norristown helps Cabrini as much as Cabrini helps Norristown.

Cabrini College has dedicated much time to partnering with the Norristown borough and its agencies. Norristown has many vibrant agencies working hard to find ways to revitalize the area, and students can easily join in many efforts that assist children, human rights and health issues.

Cabrini has worked with Norristown agencies to obtain two major grants. The first is the Youth Empowerment Grant that is focused on the health and success of 30 to 35 students from Norristown High School. The second is the Pew Grant for programs on prisoner re-entry, which helps ex-offenders returning into the Norristown community.

Cabrini is unique in the way the college has students engage with outside communities. Rather than Cabrini students just doing community service, we are able to develop life-long skills to work with partners towards a just society.

In a recent article in The Times Herald, the principal of Norristown’s Gotwals Elementary School, Maryanne Hoskins, said the school’s student population is “98 percent poverty” when talking about how students have trouble affording school supplies. Radnor has less than 4 percent of students economically disadvantaged.

If young students from Norristown don’t get the school supplies expected of them, will they be able to obtain the same type of education as children who are able to afford calculators, rulers and field trip fees?

How can two towns so close be so different? From the number of jobs available to quality of schools, the distance between the two areas seems unreal.

According to School Matters, a service of Standard and Poors, Radnor spends $19,098 per pupil whereas Norristown, with arguably with students of greater needs, has just $15,500 to spend for each child.

The YEP Grant tries to encourage students to do well in high school so college is a possible option. Currently, Norristown Area School District has 42 percent of their students attending four-year colleges while Radnor has 85 percent of their student body.

Radnor Township has over 20 parks and recreational areas and Norristown has 12, proving that your zip code does impact the types of activities available to you and your families.

There is much to be done in Norristown, but with a strong partnership, much can be accomplished long-term.

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Mallory Terrence

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