helen_gym
Helen Gym [:gimm] from Philadelphia, PA Credit: Erin Sutherland

Helen Gym, a 1993 College graduate, is running for the Philadelphia City Council At-Large as the Democratic nominee on a platform of education and housing reform.

A strong proponent of social justice issues, Gym — a former Daily Pennsylvanian and 34th Street editor — has been making efforts in past weeks to spark conversation on these issues. On Sept. 30, she traveled down to D.C. to join Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other passionate housing reformers to bring attention to federal regulations that are making it difficult for low-income citizens to get housing in certain areas. On Oct. 6, Gym spoke at Penn about education reform in an event hosted by Penn Democrats and the Penn Education Society.

Gym said the housing reform event was created to bring attention to a process through which the federal government is buying up delinquent mortgages and selling them to private equity groups. As a result of this process, 80 percent of mortgages end up in foreclosure, Gym said. She felt that she needed to bring attention to the issue since the process flows through federal agencies.

“If it has any stamp of government involvement, it needs to serve the public interest,” Gym said.

Gym’s Oct. 6 event at Penn also spoke to the topic of reform — but in relation to education instead. “A Conversation with Helen Gym,” as the Facebook event was titled, focused on how the conversation about public education has changed over time and how it continues to evolve, Gym said.

“It was a really great opportunity to talk to over 120 to 130 attendees that were there,” Gym said.

Gym’s involvement in Philadelphia education reform dates back to 2006, when she and a group of parents formed the organization known as Parents United for Public Education. The mission of this organization is to change the rhetoric around public schools and how parents had to sit helpless on the sidelines.

“It was important for us to show that there was a large swath of public school parents who were choosing public education and were really trying to transform and change it, even as difficult as the circumstances were,” Gym said.

Gym hopes that as a woman who came from Columbus, Ohio to attend Penn and then stayed in Philadelphia, she may serve as an example to Penn students who have energy and want to make a difference in Philadelphia post-graduation.

“I hope that it encourages a lot of Penn students to think broadly about what they can do either in Philadelphia, or wherever they may land,” she said.

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