Best of Philly

Best Local Hero

2021 Best Overachiever

Akayla Brown

While we were still swamped with gloomy pandemic news, this winner of the ultra-competitive­ full-ride Gates Scholarship gave us something good and pure just when we needed it. Not only did this Bodine High grad get accepted to more than 18 colleges; she runs Dimplez 4 Dayz, a community nonprofit dedicated to reducing youth violence. This Southwest Philly native is about to take Howard University by storm. Read More »

2021 Best Cleanup Act

Terrill Haigler, a.k.a. Ya Fav Trashman

Of all the pandemic’s heroes, none is more uniquely Philly than Haigler, who rose to Instagram prominence during last summer’s trash slowdown by delivering trash tips and updates and has since parlayed that fame into his own block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood­ city-cleanup operation. Read More »


2021 Best Nose

Lon Taylor

Cyrano de Bergerac has nothin’ on this Chester County newspaper delivery guy, who averted a Christmas Day disaster at the Ovations at Elk View 55-plus community by sniffing out and reporting a big gas leak while making his rounds. After evacuating residents, PECO found a broken gas line and high levels of natural gas throughout the community center’s basement. A Christmas miracle! Read More »

2021 Best Cassandra Vindication

Katalin “Kati” Karikó

Between the lines of the various hagiographies of Karikó — the Hungarian-born, Rydal-based scientist/BioNTech SVP whose dogged work on messenger RNA is the basis of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines — is a dystopian tale. At each point where Karikó loses her sponsor, loses her funding, or has her work dismissed, lies a portal to an alternate time line where cases aren’t plummeting and we’re all bracing for the next deadly spike. Read More »

2020 Best Risk-Takers

The People Who Run Businesses

They already put themselves on the line. Then came a catastrophe. Read the full write up here. Read More »


2020 Best Hope for the Future

The People Who Looked Out for Our Health

Whether they’re helping patients who are sick or homing in on a vaccine, let’s hear it for the scientists. Read the full write up here. Read More »


2020 Best Frontline Heroes

The People Who Kept Us Fed

They’ve kept our grocery stores stocked, they’ve delivered our takeout, and they’ve helped us hold it all together. Read the full write up here. Read More »


2020 Best Use of the Bully Pulpit

Joel Embiid

Sixers center Joel Embiid wasn’t having a banner season. There was a sense that maybe the honeymoon here was over. But when it was reported that Josh Harris, one of the team’s billionaire owners, planned to cut salaried employees’ pay by 20 percent to help the franchise weather the coronavirus crisis, Embiid pledged to help those workers out of his own (also deep) pockets — and donate a half mil to COVID relief. Rightfully chastened, Harris backpedaled, and the city’s love affair with Embiid blossomed anew. Read More »