By Pat Loeb


WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) —  Helen Gym is well known among local government and educational leaders for keeping them on their toes.   The Philadelphia community activist will be honored at the White House next week for her service to the city.

“People might think that (I) come here as an activist or with these activist tendencies,” Gym tells KYW Newsradio.  “I did not.”

Gym (pronounced with a hard ‘G’)  is so prominent in every Philadelphia public school budget fight and policy discussion that it’s hard to believe she was ever anything but a fearless and tireless advocate.  But she says she came here 28 years ago as a college student with no larger agenda.

“I found a place where life is incredibly meaningful every day, and I think that’s incredibly powerful,” she says.

Gym is one of ten people in the US who will receive the White House’s Cesar Chavez “Champion of Change” award on Monday, for exemplifying the late labor leader’s values.  It’s an honor for which she thanks her adopted city.

“I learned those values in Philadelphia,” she acknowledges.