A Delaware County teen sought to make the first day of school welcoming for a group of Philadelphia public school students.
Radnor High School student Jillian Hughes, 15, her father and her pastor parked a U-haul full of book bags and school supplies outside Andrew Jackson School on South 12th St. Monday morning. They arrived at 7 a.m. ready to pass out 495 backpacks to the students on the first day of school in Philly.
"I have no counselors and no nurses, and then I have Jillian Hughes out of the blue that sends a message," said Andrew Jackson principal Lisa Ciaranca-Kaplan.
Educators, staffers and students are all facing new challenges this year as a result of the $304 million budget crisis the district faces. As the budget shortfall drama stretched through the summer, Hughes decided this she wanted to help by duplicating the program "Supplies for Success," spearheaded by her favorite NFL player.
"One of my favorite football players, Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice, has a program for students in Maryland. I wanted to bring a program like that to Philadelphia. I reached out to to Mr. Rice and he put me in touch with (former Philadelphia Eagle) Brian Westbrook and he gave me a generous donation to the cause," said Hughes.
Hughes googled various Philadelphia schools in July and settled on Andrew Jackson School as the school to receive the backpacks. She wrote an email to Ciaranca-Kaplan on August 17:
"I recently read a New York Times article about how your school is facing tough budget cuts. Personally, I don't live in Philadelphia, (I live right outside of Philadelphia,) but it made me very upset to see how much these budget cuts will hurt not only your school, but the whole Philadelphia school district.
I'm only fifteen years old, but I want to help. So, I started Supplies for Success: A School Supply Drive! My goal is to give the kids of your school the school supplies that they deserve this year. So far, I've been in touch with a donor who is donating 250 backpacks as well as other school supplies! That's not all, though, because I'm planning on getting even more, especially more backpacks!"
Ciaranca-Kaplan said she could not have been more thrilled to receive the email. She said, "It made my day on a really tough day."
Westbrook donated 250 backpacks and Hughes' church, St. John's Presbyterian in Devon, also pitched in.
"The kids were so excited. All of the kids at the school now have backpacks stuffed with school supplies. It was just amazing that someone would do something like that," said Ciaranca-Kaplan.
"That's an awful lot of stuff for a teenager to do in this day and age. We are totally flabbergasted, thrilled and appreciative."
Pens, markers and book bags for students are prized items at Andrew Jackson. In addition to the book bags, she bought supplies for teachers and extra notebooks for the classrooms.
"I learned that you really should appreciate what you have. We take so many things for granted. We have so much at my school. I take it for granted that we have access to technology and textbooks," Hughes said.
Hughes hopes to continue a relationship with the school throughout the year and work on additional projects to help the school.
Upon leaving Andrew Jackson School, Ciancara-Kaplan wrote a back-to-school note to Radnor High School to provide Hughes with a late excuse. The note read: 'Please excuse her for being late and praise her as much as you can.'