Today we are introducing the first five winners of our Integrity Icon Philadelphia campaign! This amazing group of public servants is made up of exemplary men and women working in public health and education supporting different needs for their community.

Meet our first winner, Carlos Aponte! Carlos Aponte is a history teacher at One Bright Ray Community High School, a school for over-age and under-credited students, and the president of We Love Philly, a non- profit organization that empowers students with positive community experiences and essential professional skills through mindfulness, volunteerism and entrepreneurship.

Carlos believes that integrity means sticking to your word and being a trusted member of the community. “It is the action you put in on the ground to match your actions with your words.”   Working in an alternative school means working with students who have experienced trauma. Classroom settings can be challenging for these students and can inhibit their ability to learn. Carlos was able to identify these issues and develop an innovative curriculum that combines mindfulness with community activism. 


His colleagues regard him as a powerful teacher, because of the way he connects with his students and how he uses the same connection to empower them to push themselves and work through emotional trauma. Carlos is constantly looking for ways to connect and collaborate with organizations that serve communities across Philadelphia. Learn more about Carlos by watching his short film here.

Meet our second Integrity Icon Philadelphia winner Richard Gordon! Richard serves as Principal of Paul Robeson High School in #Philadelphia where he has been a staff member for 9 years. He employs his personal experience of growing up in a community affected by poverty to heal and inspire his students to reach their greatest potential. To his students, colleagues and the community at large, Gordon is their pillar of strength.  

“I use my credibility and influence with my students to not only promote empowerment through academic success, but also through the understanding that education and personal empathy for your fellow human being empowers you to eradicate poverty, social and economic segregation, and lead our students/families to full employment integration and full employment opportunities.” Watch his short film here.


Our third Integrity Icon Philadelphia winner is Dr. Ruth Abaya, a Pediatric Medicine Physician and Injury Prevention Program Manager at Philadelphia Department of Public Health and a Stone Lee Fellow,  studying gun violence. With only a year in her position, Dr. Abaya has already made many positive changes to the department. 

She took on the task of reinstating the firearm homicide and non-fatal injury review team, the purpose of which is to procure and share data between hospitals, law enforcement and public service agents. To Dr. Abaya, her 10-year dream for Philadelphia is to see the amount of trauma inflicted on a community by a single act of gun violence eliminated. 

“Integrity means looking the same in private that you do in public,” she says. “Sticking to the objectives that you set for yourself. Committing to doing the work that you said you would do.” Learn more about Dr. Abaya here.


Our forth Integrity Icon Philadelphia winner is Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for the School District of Philadelphia, Shaquita Smith. Committed to serving with purpose, Smith dedicates her time to working to ensure that her students have the greatest opportunities available to them. 

As the Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator, Shaquita works tirelessly to bring social studies and civics to life for the city’s students of all ages through partnerships, innovative lessons, and support for teachers.

“Integrity means being stand-up all the time,” she says. “It means that  you are the same person with one group that you are with another. Even if it’s not in your personal interest – you’re always going to do what’s right.” Learn more about Shequita and her work here.


Our fifth and final Integrity Icon Philadelphia winner is Tom Quinn, a Social Studies teacher at Central High School and the Organizer of Philly Youth Vote! Tom is passionate about youth leadership and works tirelessly volunteering his time towards building the voices and civic engagement of young people in Philadelphia. Without the support of school administration, Tom has created robust voter registration efforts across multiple Philadelphia public schools that are now attracting attention and support. 

Tom is hoping to see young people assume positions of power and is working towards that goal by informing and registering new voters and inspiring future political leaders. “Integrity means knowing something needs to be done, and doing it. There is a DIY element to it that involves taking initiative. Integrity means working with other people to make a community better, even despite the existing power structures that may work to block action.” Learn more about Tim here