Three Penn community members are running for the Democratic nomination in the Philadelphia mayoral primary election this May.
Penn community members include 2016 master's graduate Cherelle Parker, 1993 College graduate Helen Gym, and 2000 Wharton certificate-holder James DeLeon.
Cherelle Parker, who received her master's degree in public administration from the Fels Institute of Government in 2016, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she attended Penn to further her promise to serve the communities she represented.
“Although as an elected official you rely on a lot of people for research, it was important to me to master proficiency in the technical skillset needed to further strengthen my role as a chief advocate for the people,” Parker said.
Parker served as a Pennsylvania state legislator before becoming a city council member in 2016. She resigned last year to join the mayoral race.
According to her campaign website, Parker said she credits her community's support in helping her on her path to higher education.
“Between my 10-year tenure in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, along with my experience at Penn, earning my master’s … those were the two most significant contributors to my professional growth and development,” Parker said.
Within the context of being a Penn community member, Parker said she wants to use educational training and workforce development as tools to put people on a "path to self-sufficiency."
Parker wants to set an example for other Penn alumni that they can use their Penn degrees to bring about real change.
“I would have never thought because of my humble beginnings that Penn would have been a part of my future," Parker said, "And we can all come together to do this. I will be a living example. When done well, we put our Penn credentials to work and we work hard to make life better for people.”
Helen Gym, an alumna of the DP, said that she is running for mayor because she wants Philadelphia to be the "best city for people to live."
Gym attended Penn as both an undergraduate and graduate student, receiving a bachelor's degree in history in 1993 and a master's degree in education concentrating in teaching English to speakers of other languages.
Gym said that her work as a reporter for the DP and 34th Street Magazine gave her the opportunity to explore and engage with the local Philadelphia community.
“The DP and 34th Street pushing me off campus and encouraging me to do more in-depth writings about people and issues like housing, immigration, and refugee resettlement felt just as important as any of the classes that I was taking,” Gym said.
According to Gym's campaign website, she has led policies to protect youth in juvenile residential facilities, reduced evictions throughout the city, and worked to support labor rights and policies in her role as a city council member.
Philadelphia native James DeLeon, who holds a small business management certificate from the Wharton School, told the DP that he hopes to tackle Philadelphia’s gun violence and housing crises.
DeLeon said that what he initially thought the certificate would concentrate on actually differed from what he ended up learning about turning small businesses into Initial Public Offerings.
DeLeon said he wants to use the lessons from Wharton to create programs to expand the number of IPO businesses within Philadelphia, specifically those run by people who identify with minority groups.
“I want Philadelphia to be the center of the minority initial public offerings," DeLeon said. "I would like the Chambers of Commerce — the Black, Hispanic, and Asian Chambers of Commerce — to identify which of their business members are on the verge of national success and put them in an incubator type of course at places like Wharton or Temple."
DeLeon said he would also create a position for a deputy mayor of small business success, who would be in charge of organizing and financing incubator programs. He added that he hopes to create opportunities for businesses in Philadelphia while broadening the city's tax base.
“If we can have minority businesses coming out of Philadelphia that can go on the stock exchange, we could be the center for minority IPOs in the United States,” DeLeon said.