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Southern to honor 4

South Philadelphia High School will honor four former teachers and community members at its Annual Award of Excellence on Nov. 5.

The event will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water Street. The school will honor educators Althea Leslie and Joseph Tedesco, community activist Wei Chen and Executive Board/VP Alumni Association Tarez Williams. Tickets are $35 and due by Oct. 29. Visit sphsalumni.com for more information.

About the Honorees:

Althea Leslie is a graduate of Penn State University with a dual degree in Physical Education and Dance. Leslie (Hilsendager) taught at Southern from 1968-1979 and was at

the forefront of bringing Dance or Movement into the curriculum at Southern. 

A supporter of the Arts Program at Southern, she established a dance troupe and was the main choreographer for many of the school shows produced during her time there, influencing several Rams alumni into careers in the arts. Leslie taught for 40 years in the School District of Philadelphia and was a member of the Joan Kerr Dance Company before becoming a choreographer for different dance troupes in the tri-state area.

Joe Tedesco taught 20 years at Southern in the English Department, spent several years in the school’s Motivation Program and became the yearbook sponsor in 1992. A South Philadelphia native who attended Bishop Neumann High School, Tedesco joined the Air Force and reached the rank of sergeant, specializing in electronics before enrolling at La Salle University and Rowan University. 

Tedesco is married to Joan Black-Tedesco, a like-minded English teacher of 47 years from South Philly. Together, they have two children and two grandchildren.

Wei Chen is Asian Americans United’s civic engagement director, who used his time at Southern to ease racial tensions.

In 2008 and 2009, Chen’s anti-bias and racial healing won national acclaim, helping create the South Philadelphia High Chinese Student Association and eventually leading a major boycott of the school for more than eight days following persistent anti-Asian and anti-immigrant harassment. 

In 2014, Chen founded Chinatown Vote and is on the board of Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia. He was one of 10 people nationally awarded a Peace First Prize fellowship to continue his organization’s addressing bias harassment. In 2015, Chen was appointed to serve as commissioner of the city Commission on Human Relations. In 2020, co-founded API PA, Pennsylvania’s first Asian-focused 501(c)4 organization.

Tarez Williams compiled more than 20 years of service on the Executive Board of the Alumni Association, where she served a portion of her time as president.

After a tremendous track and field career at Southern, Williams was the first female in school history to receive a full athletic scholarship to college and was the recipient of one of largest athletic scholarships awarded in SPHS history and attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Retired with 36 years of service to Citizens Bank where she served as vice president, Williams has served on boards including Mt. Enon Community Outreach and Refuge Temple. Tarez is a mother of three children and has six grandchildren.

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