Shayla Evermon-Muniz, a student at Nebinger School, was vocal in more ways than one at City Hall on Thursday morning.
After singing Mariah Carey's "Hero" outside City Council chambers, Shayla, 10, talked about how education has accommodated her love for arts and music.
If those programs were cut from the Philadelphia public schools, "I would never come back to school," she said. "Music is a big part of my life, and so is drawing."
Shayla and two other students joined civic activists to push for more funding for the Philadelphia School District.
School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. last month introduced what many described as a "doomsday budget" that would cut music and art programs, among other things. In an attempt to avoid cuts, the School District is seeking additional money from the city and state to cover a $304 million budget shortfall.
Art and music programs "build critical-thinking skills," said Danielle Gallagher, a volunteer with Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
Those programs also serve as "an integral part of the education our kids get," said Nancy DeLuca, a director at Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
Those two civic organizations and the Nebinger Home and School Association organized Thursday's rally.
The groups presented Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez with "Arts Education Superhero" capes to honor them for supporting the effort.
"Our work is not done," Brown said as she donned the cape. "We will do our part to ensure that Philadelphia comes up with the necessary dollars for these young people."
Nebinger student James Fratantoni, 13, and Middle Years Alternative School student Jwoanteera Jones, 14, were the other two students who sang "Hero" at City Hall.
"Music is something that takes a kid who normally sits in the back of the classroom and gives them a chance to shine," said Jwoanteera, who participates in her school's choir. She said being in the choir "is just amazing."