Janine Yass didn’t set out to be an advocate of education reform. But once she had a firsthand look at the crisis in Philadelphia’s public schools, she couldn’t ignore it. “It’s simply an injustice,” says Yass. “Every child should have the same opportunities for education that my children had. Isn’t that what this country is about?”
So Yass and her husband took action in 2006, proposing the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School for grades nine through 12. With a private-school college-prep curriculum, the West Philadelphia institution already had a waiting list when it was approved by the School District of Philadelphia. It remains the most recent charter school to be sanctioned by the city. Its current enrollment is 450 students, and 99 percent of its graduates have gone on to college—many of them to Ivy League schools. “The more kids and parents I met, the more it just fueled me every day to keep going,” says Yass, who’s recently received city approval for a Boys’ Latin middle school, which will open this year.
The vice chair for the national Center for Education Reform’s board of directors, Yass is also on the board of the Philadelphia School Partnership, a reform-focused organization she cofounded with other business and philanthropic leaders. “I’ve seen struggling schools transform over the past five years,” Yass says. “Public, nonprofit charter organizations have created safe havens of learning. We need to keep advocating on behalf of these students.”
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