Kyle Shenandoah, Friends Select School ‘04
Friends school alum Kyle Shenandoah, Friends Select School (FSS) Class of 2004, is a community leader, organizer, and social innovator in Philadelphia. Since his graduation from FSS, he's been involved in multiple roles in the City of Philadelphia and within his community of Grays Ferry. In part due to Kyle's advocacy, Grays Ferry has transformed from a place of vacancy and neglect to a neighborhood on the rise of newfound revitalization. Due to Kyle impact, he's received over 20 awards from the PA legislature, appointed by the mayor into three positions, won a competitive race for state committee, and recently was selected as a speaker for the upcoming May 2019 TEDx Philadelphia.
Since graduation from Friends Select, Kyle worked and volunteered to address Philadelphia's long record of poverty. Beginning with his neighborhood, (whose poverty rate lies at 39%) Kyle started a three-pronged approach to lessening poverty via accessible housing & responsible urban development, workforce development, and equitable transit.
On the front of fair housing, Kyle saw that improper zoning protocol and lack of communication led to widespread fears of gentrification. To ensure proper communication and representation from his neighbors, Kyle co-founded the Tasker Morris Neighbors Association where he regularly organizes community meetings with developers and community leaders. According to Kyle, for the first time in Grays Ferry, there is now comprehensive representation for his neighborhood at community meetings. Kyle has also worked hard to bring jobs to his neighborhood through annual job fairs and a large social media presence. Last year's job fair attracted more than 60 employees and was attended by over 600 people. Still believing workforce development is the key to economic development and lessening poverty, Kyle has started crafting an app to translate business ideas into business plans. Although still in development, the app could help residents embrace entrepreneurship as an avenue to economic development.
“Friends Select taught me a lot about giving back and it followed me into my career and in work with the community. I always felt that progress comes from stewardship of your community and always pushing to improve the conditions around you,” says Kyle. “In my work to address poverty, it is everyone’s responsibility to help those less fortunate and rebuild trust from those around you. Urban development is all about creating a community that reflects the needs of the community. Economic empowerment is all about equity and resource allocation for others in need. It seemed obvious to me from my schooling at FSS that giving back can mean helping your community grow and responsibly develop.”
Kyle’s most recent accomplishment has been his successful advocacy for the new SEPTA 49 bus route. Through conversations with the community and SEPTA, Kyle was pivotal is getting his neighborhood an access point connecting Grays Ferry to University City, 30th Street Station, and Fairmount. This will be a first for Kyle’s neighborhood to have public transportation access to areas in North Philadelphia & 30th Street Station.
Kyle's activism in South Philadelphia has garnered the attention of several prominent organizations and the Philadelphia Mayor’s office. Currently Kyle was appointed a two-year term on The Philadelphia Millennial Advisory Committee. He was also appointed to the SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee and the DVRPC Public Participation Taskforce. In addition, Kyle sits on the Boards of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, Spectrum Health Services Inc, Grays Ferry Civic Association, and NExT Philadelphia of the Urban League. In May 2018, Kyle was elected a member of a democratic state committee through a grassroots campaign with his neighbors. Four times a year, Kyle goes to Harrisburg to discuss party issues and represent his community.
Kyle has been selected to be one of 13 speakers at TEDx Philadelphia on May 15th 2019, where he will be discussing his journey as a community organizer and revitalization efforts in South Philadelphia. In the upcoming TED event, Kyle will share how he implemented bus route 49, crafted an urban development plan, and pushed economic empowerment opportunities in his neighborhood.
“I feel the most important lesson I took from Friends Select and growing up with Quakers is the importance of giving back. I learned early on in my schooling that giving back to the community should always be on the forefront of education.”