As more people return to air travel, the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) Volunteer Navigators are more important than ever to help customers navigate the terminals. This is especially true now as many people are traveling for the first time since the COVID pandemic began and need help with the new safety protocols as well.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the Volunteer Navigators Program at PHL, and the Airport celebrated by expanding the program to seek dedicated, friendly individuals who enjoy helping others, are interested in travel and hospitality, and love the Greater Philadelphia region. This recruitment effort includes a unique and special partnership with three local high schools – Benjamin Franklin High School, West Philadelphia High School, and South Philadelphia High School – to welcome students with learning disabilities and autism into the volunteer program. Twelve students have already completed the clearance process, received their badges and are completing weekly Navigator shifts.
The new partnership was born out of an inquiry at the information desk at 30th Street Station, which is staffed by Travelers Aid. A teacher asked about involving students with learning disabilities and Christine Datesman, program manager for Travelers Aid at the Philadelphia International Airport, made it happen.
“People living with disabilities are often perceived as the ones in need of service,” said Datesman. “However, people with disabilities are a key part of civic engagement in communities across the country. We volunteer to build confidence, meet people, and learn new skills. Volunteering helps us network and build relationships that can lead to employment and new friendships. Everyone should be empowered to give back to their communities. When everyone participates, it’s a win-win!”
The high school students join a team of 80 dedicated and enthusiastic airport volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who are stationed at the information desks or walk around with iPads to assist customers who look lost or need help. Angelo worked at the airport since 1977 and missed it so much that he returned as a volunteer. Alyssa is a 16-year-old aspiring pilot who has been volunteering for the past two months and is recruiting her school friends because she loves the experience so much.
So, the next time you travel and need assistance finding your way, please look for one of PHL’s friendly and helpful volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please click here. Volunteers must be 16 years old and work one four-hour shift per week.
Volunteers are shown here wearing green sunflower lanyards, which are part of PHL's Hidden Disabilities Program. The lanyards, which are available for all passengers, provide a signal that guests might need extra support while traveling through the airport. Learn more here.