Philly’s newest school board member has a background helping young people

New Philadelphia school board member Ameen Akbar (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

By Chanel Hill

PHILADELPHIA — For Ameen Akbar, his new role on the Board of Education for the School District of Philadelphia is an opportunity to continue his work helping young people while ensuring that they also receive the quality of education they deserve.

“Being a public school student and working with teachers, community members, and thousands of young people for the last 25 years gave me a unique perspective into the education system,” said Akbar, who has worked as a mentor, basketball coach and consultant in developing learning strategies. “I always wanted to translate those real stories and experiences by contributing to conversations at the school district level.”

Mayor Jim Kenney appointed Akbar to the school board earlier this month, with City Council’s approval. Akbar was one of 27 candidates nominated by the Educational Nominating Panel.

Akbar replaced departing board member Wayne Walker and will serve a four-year term.

“Ameen has dedicated his career to listening to young people and supporting them to pursue their full potential,” Kenney said in a written statement.

“His extensive experience working with former out-of-school youth has granted him valuable insight into the systems and lived experiences that directly impact the well-being and success of our city’s young people.”

Kenney appointed seven other board members; all of them previously served on the board.

A ninth seat on the Board of Education is still vacant following former Board member Chris McGinley’s decision not to serve a second term, which came after Kenney submitted his appointments to City Council for consideration.

Board president Joyce Wilkerson said in a written statement that she and the other board members “look forward to collaborating with Ameen and benefiting from his extensive experience in education and the community relationships he has forged as we work to ensure that the interests of our students come first and that we help them reach their full potential, especially in these challenging times.”

Akbar, a 42-year-old native of Philadelphia, graduated from J.R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Penn State University.

Akbar worked for 14 years at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School in mentoring and service learning.

He is now a senior associate at Grovider, a consulting firm that supports organizations in developing learning and development strategies.

He also is the lead facilitator of Universal Companies’ BoysToMen program and an assistant basketball coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School.

Akbar said that working with the other board members these past few weeks “has been very exciting.”

“I’m getting to know different policies and see how different schools in the district function,” Akbar said.

In the future, Akbar hopes that the board continues to have conversations around wellness and education.

“The wellness and restoration of students, educators, and community is important to me,” Akbar said. “Those things are precursors to higher academic scores, better student engagement, and higher community engagement. I’m eager to translate what those things look like in terms of leadership.”

Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.