Anna Bethel Young, 96, teacher, community activist

Posted: August 14, 2014

AS AN EDUCATOR for five decades, Anna Young always took special interest in the often-unmet needs of urban students.

In fact, the longtime English teacher wrote a book on the subject, Relationship of Writing and Self-Esteem Among Urban High School Students, in which she discussed how proficiency in self-expression could help city kids feel better about themselves and their place in the world.

Far ahead of her time, Anna Young actually was one of the first African-American teachers in the Philadelphia School District when she began her career in the 1940s.

Anna Bethel Young, whose commitment to educational and community service earned her numerous commendations and awards over the years, died Sunday. She was 96 and was living at Sunrise Assisted Living in Haverford.

A devoted family matriarch, Anna directed another book, her autobiography, at her grandchildren - A Grandmother's Quest: Aah, You Made It, attesting not only to her love of family but also to her rich sense of humor.

Anna's entire career was spent teaching. She taught students in both junior high and high schools, as well as at the college level.

"Dr. Young's legacy in education extended to many schools," her family said.

Beginning in 1947, she taught English at Vaux and Wanamaker junior high schools, and as an English teacher and administrator at John Bartram High School.

She tutored foreign-born students at urban centers at Cheyney and Lincoln universities. She also taught at Trenton State College - now the College of New Jersey - and Temple University.

She served as a faculty representative to Home and School Associations in Philadelphia, helping to organize teenage clubs, and chaired school and community committees, all dedicated to the welfare of young people.

The former Anna Fields graduated from Philadelphia Girls High School and went on to Temple, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1946. She received a master's in education from Temple in 1955.

After raising two children with her late husband, Henry Bethel, she entered Rutgers University and earned a doctorate in education in 1986.

Many of Anna's community and educational activities were through the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, which she joined in 1952. She served as president of the Philadelphia chapter from 1980 to 1983, and was national director of its Assault on Illiteracy program.

In an article in the Inquirer by Fawn Vrazo in 1983, Anna described how she had been looking for an African-American sorority but hadn't found one when she was standing on a train platform with a friend in 1952 and a stranger began talking about Zeta and its good works.

That began her long association with the sorority, in which she worked on Zeta programs including tutoring Haitian immigrants, anti-illiteracy drives, enrichment programs for young black women, thrift-shop enterprises and health seminars.

She was quoted as saying, "A Zeta woman is a serious woman. She's always been noted to be an achiever. At one time we had a little thing that Zeta women weren't pretty, they were smart. But that's not true anymore. We have all kinds."

She is survived by a son, Dr. Leonard Bethel; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by another son, Wayne Bethel.

Services: 11 a.m. Friday at Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1437 Christian St. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester.

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