Philadelphia history teacher extends learning outside the classroom

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Carlos Aponte, of Philadelphia's Brewerytown section, is a history teacher at One Bright Ray Community, a high school for students ages 16 to 21, who are looking for another opportunity to get a high school diploma.

He said he began teaching at the non-traditional school because of his own negative school experiences.

"Having teachers that didn't care as much as they - as much as I believe you should," he said. "I also went through a lot of traumatic events growing up where I didn't feel wanted and needed. And I know if I had that same sort of mentor in my life that showed me that same sort of love, that I would have probably - I would have hurt a lot less people as I was figuring out myself."

Although he knew he was helping as a teacher in this high school of second chances, he felt his students could benefit from something more.

"Instead of just complaining about it I decided, hey, maybe the reason why I see it and the reason I had the experiences I had growing up, I'm supposed to be one of the people that do something about it," Aponte said.

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What he did was create We Love Philly. It's a nonprofit after-school program for his students at One Bright Ray Community that continues their education outside of the classroom.

They teach social and emotional intelligence through entrepreneurship, fundraisers, journaling, vulnerable discussions, and community service.

A bonus is that participation in the program counts for high school credits towards their diploma.

"We're going to go out into the community. We're going to see what the real-life benefits and consequences are of how we do things. And then we'll be able to reflect and have in a zone that there is no judgment," said Aponte.

Using the real-life approach, he also teaches students about topics that are outside of the typical high school curriculum, like real estate and taxes-- all tools that will make transitioning into adulthood much easier.

"I believe there's so much power in turning your pain into your purpose," he said. "That's the beautiful thing about youth in Philadelphia."

"I don't run out of energy, I don't stop and I love what I do. And I'm gonna continue to keep doing it as long as I see it being of service to other people. I think that's what it's about," he said.

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