Member, Philadelphia City Council
Helen Gym, chair of the Committee on Children and Youth, is a community and education leader whose work across different organizations supports the right to a quality public education for all children. As a Councilwoman, her primary concern is addressing widespread poverty in Philadelphia, particularly through an emphasis on building a quality public education system that anchors schools within communities. She will continue to push for fairer and more responsible taxation, sustainable investments in neighborhoods, language access and civil rights, and a focus on the long-term health and safety of Philadelphia residents.
Helen’s political vision is rooted in her organizing background. A former school teacher and journalist, Helen co-founded Parents United for Public Education, a citywide parent group that builds parent voice and works for quality, equity and transparency in school budgets, while also successfully advocating for millions of dollars in new revenue for Philadelphia public schools. The group is working to establish a baseline level of resources, staffing and programs for every child at every school. Helen co-founded the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent education newspaper, which has done extensive investigations into school district budgeting, evaluated major policy initiatives, and reported on areas (i.e. charter school admission policies) in need of accountability.
She was most recently interim Executive Director of Asian Americans United, where she has been a longtime board member. For over 20 years she has been a leader in some of the community’s most prominent campaigns, including the opposition to a proposed stadium and casino, the founding of a public charter school serving immigrant children and families, and campaigns around human rights issues in immigration and deportation practices. Helen was one of the anchors of a successful federal civil rights case at a local high school involving harassment of immigrant youth.
Helen is the recipient of the Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year award and the National Award of Distinction by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She was also chosen as one of 10 people nationally as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change by the White House. Helen is the mother of three children, one public school graduate and two current public school students. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.