PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The relentless sun was beating down on the streets of Philadelphia's Fairhill neighborhood today, but it was no match for Carlos Aponte and his clean-up crew. They were there to see it rise and they'll be cleaning until it sets.
"It's my life, right," Aponte said, referring to serving the community. "I do it five days a week when I'm teaching, so I mean, it's nothing new."
Aponte is a teacher at One Bright Ray Community High School in North Philadelphia. But his mentorship extends beyond the classroom through his non-profit, We Love Philly.
In addition to cleaning the neighborhood and giving out school supplies, Aponte is also attempting to raise $10,000 to purchase a private school bus. He hopes the vehicle will make it possible to usher students to entrepreneurial and volunteer opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, he has already raised more than $7,900.
For Aponte, success starts and ends with mentorship.
"One of my mentors told me, before you make a move, figure out how everything you do is of service to everyone else and then you'll be happy the rest of your life," he said.
Aponte thinks self-esteem is one of the obstacles in the way of success for his students.
"The number one issue is having people in their life to help them understand that they are a limitless person," he said.
One of his students, Yaddieo Rodriguez, agrees.
"One of our biggest problems is that everyone thinks negative all the time," he said. "Do more things. Talk to more people. Go outside," he urged.
Rodriguez joined his classmates and Mr. Aponte today as they marched down city blocks sweeping up waste, glass, leaves, and other debris.
"I was trying to find a way to get students in different parts of the city to start building relationships among people in the community," Aponte said. "These neighborhoods are segregated and we don't come together as an entire city."
He hopes that today's cleanup, along with future events, will expose youth to the opportunities in their city. In the future, they may become mentors as well.
Anyone who encounters dangerous waste in their neighborhood can reach out to the city's "Philly 311" resource.
To learn more about We Love Philly, visit their website.