Seated in 2016, Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym leads a human rights agenda which measures outcomes based on the health and well-being of young people in the city.
As chair of Council’s Children and Youth Committee, she has helped lead a public schools agenda that contributed to the end of the 17-year state takeover of the Philadelphia school system, supported funding for pre-K programs, and restored nurses and counselors back to every public school. She established the city’s first legal defense fund for tenants facing eviction and the city’s first fund to specifically address youth homelessness. She has also focused her legislative efforts on economic justice issues, including championing fair scheduling legislation, expanding the city’s living wage laws, and requiring disclosure for businesses accepting city subsidies.
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. Helen co-founded the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent education newspaper which has done extensive investigations into school district budgeting, privatization, charters and segregation, and the impact of high stakes testing.
As the first Asian American woman to serve in Philadelphia’s City Council, Helen has deep connections to Philadelphia’s Asian American and immigrant communities. She has led prominent campaigns, including the successful opposition to a proposed stadium and casino in Philadelphia Chinatown, winning a federal civil rights settlement requiring schools to address bullying and racial harassment, and campaigns against the inhumane detention and deportation of immigrants.
Helen serves as Vice Chair of Local Progress, a network of progressive municipal leaders, where she has helped lead national efforts around Sanctuary Cities, the DREAM Act, and progressive public education policies. She is the mother of three children, two public school graduates and one current public school student. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She is the recipient of a number of awards including the Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year and the 2017 national Rising Star Award from EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest organization supporting women in elected office.