by Sue Ann Rybak
Freshmen and sophomore students at Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice, 7500 Germantown Ave., led historical walking tours around Mt. Airy for their fellow classmates on Dec. 13.
As part of the freshman Multicultural Ethics class and the sophomore Social and Community Leadership class, the students participated in a workshop organized by Student Community Action Tours, whose mission is to provide a platform for students to become ambassadors of their community by learning about the history of their neighborhood.
The students learned about the history of Mt. Airy, its demographics and social issues that affect the neighborhood.
James Cersonsky, an instructor in the program, said the workshop allowed students to have a voice as active members of their community and to connect with the community. As preparation for the tours, students researched various landmarks in Mt. Airy and learned about the history of voting rights, gay rights, food justice and other issues.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know the kids and seeing how they relate to the history of the neighborhood,” Cersonsky said.
Prior to Thursday’s tour, students interviewed activists from the community and learned about their experiences and the various grassroots organizations in the neighborhood. Other activities included a photo scavenger hunt and playing games.
Naire McNeil, a freshman at Parkway Northwest, talked about the history of the Trolley Car Diner and the trolley car that the restaurant uses as its ice cream shop. He said the Trolley Car Diner is at the site of what once was a Roy Rogers restaurant and that it opened for business on Aug. 8, 2000.
“The Trolley Car Diner is a significant landmark in the community – not only for its connection to the history of Mt. Airy – but its social and economic impact on the community,” McNeil said.
McNeil said the owners, Ken Weinstein and his former business partners, Bob and Nancy Elfant, renovated the old diner. The owners held a “Name the Diner” competition. The diner was named after the Route 23 trolley car which ran along Germantown Avenue.
Other sites along the tour included the Chestnut Hill Flower and Garden at 7639 Germantown Ave., and the William Allen Plaza and historical marker on the campus of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. The plaza is about 200 feet from where the Pennsylvania colony’s Chief Justice William Allen made his summer home and principal residence.
Allen helped to establish Pennsylvania Hospital and the Academy and College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania.) He died in Mt. Airy in 1780. Students took turns sharing facts and personal experiences at various sites along the tour.
Quinton Henry, a senior, said he enjoyed the tour hosted by his fellow classmates.
“I enjoyed learning about the Trolley Car and Brewer’s Outlet,” Henry said. “Now, I want to go check out some other places in Mt. Airy.”