micro-fund this barn raising

What if you gave $26,000 to a school to build a rooftop farm?  What if 260 of your friends each gave $100?  South Philadelphia High School is elbow deep in the latter scenario thanks to a strategy known as crowdfunding.


On April 9th South Philadelphia High School launched an online fundraising campaign to raise over $26,000 through micro-donations.  The publicly-sourced contributions will fund a full-time garden educator position and the development of a Greening Master Plan for the school’s 5.5 acre urban campus.  This first phase of funding will parlay into four additional campaigns that will address the complete design of rooftop and ground-level improvements and construction of the campus vision.

South Philadelphia High School's urban context ||  image by Google Maps

South Philadelphia High School’s urban context || image by Google Maps

5.5 acre campus ||  image by Google Maps

5.5 acre campus || image by Google Maps

South Philadelphia High School roof ||  photo by Lauren Mandel

Multi-acre roof || photo by Lauren Mandel

The project goals are simple: education, healthy eating, and stormwater management.  The suite of infrastructural improvements outlined in the Greening Master Plan will present the school’s teachers with unique curriculum-building opportunities that take kids out of the classroom!  Math, biology, English, and culinary arts teachers will introduce skills and concepts through outdoor education, which has the potential to offer long-lasting impact for the school’s 1,400 students.   The greater community will benefit not only from empowered, motivated  kids, but also from public green space – something that the neighborhood lacks.

Turning the campus into an outdoor classroom and neighborhood gathering space will involve rooftop and ground-level improvements.  The roof will host an educational rooftop farm (likely 0.5 acre in size), extensive green roof areas, and solar panels.  The landscape below may feature rain gardens, porous pavement, street trees, and expanded vegetable garden plots (of which the school already has two).

The brains behind this forward-thinking initiative is the school’s own Principal Otis Hackney, a Philadelphia native.  Hackney dreamed up the project one day when speaking to the school’s part-time garden educator, Molly Devinney, who’s position is funded by the local civic association.  Devinney recalls Principal Hackney pointing to the roof in 2012 and asking, “Do you think we can grow food up there?”  Hackney shared his idea with Kim Massare, president of the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association (LoMO), who reached out to my company Roofmeadow to discuss the idea.  The whim quickly snowballed into a phased strategy for refining the vision and securing funds to ensure its execution.

South Philadelphia High School's rooftop vision || rendering by Lauren Mandel

South Philadelphia High School’s rooftop vision || rendering by Lauren Mandel

The team decided to  partner with Projexity, an online platform that raises micro-donations for neighborhood improvement projects, in order to engage the local and global community.  While Projexity targets projects internationally in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Toronto, the company was founded by three University of Pennsylvania alumni (two of them my classmates in graduate school).  With Projexity’s local roots and a crew of Philadelphians including Hackney, Devinney, Massare, and myself (my grandparents actually went to South Philly High), this project is by Philadelphia, for Philadelphia.  

Now is your chance to dream big with us.  Help South Philadelphia’s students and community members reach their goal by supporting this incredible “barn raising” initiative.  Please visit Projexity.com for more information on how to get involved and make a difference.

4 Comments on “micro-fund this barn raising

  1. I just contributed. 🙂 Been waiting to do that… 😉

    Yours, Keith

  2. Thanks, Laur. Gran went to Southern (nickname for South Philly High), too !

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