This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Art supplies aren’t always the easiest things to come by in Philadelphia schools, such as the Andrew Jackson School, a kindergarten through eighth grade public school in the city.
The school is home to over 500 students with 29 different cultures and 14 different languages represented, said Christina Uliano, the art teacher from Andrew Jackson.
“Each teacher in the (School District of Philadelphia) is given a $100 stipend to use towards supplies,” Uliano said. “For many classroom teachers, this is an insulting amount compared to what they actually spend to make their classrooms function. For art teachers? It is impossible.”
That $100 supplies her classroom with a set of markers and some pencils. That’s it.
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To try and help, she asks all parents to donate a $1 at the beginning of the year, which could bring in maybe an additional $200, but that’s if the parents can afford to give the money.
“These are working people and many families struggle to put food on the table, let alone fund their kids’ art class,” Uliano said. “I also have to write grants, apply for Donors Choose funding and conduct fundraisers within the school in order to purchase basic supplies.”
West Chester Henderson High School’s National Art Honor Society (NAHS) set about to help the students at Andrew Jackson as part of their Thanksgiving Service Project and conducted its own fundraiser.
To raise the money, the students went around during lunch and homeroom to ask fellow classmates to donate, hoping to collect their goal of $500.
“The students at our school are generally willing to donate a dollar or change, which adds up quickly,” said Lauren Benson, a member of the NAHS. “We also set out a collection jar at the Exton Mall and collected outside of school several times at sporting events and my parents’ workplaces.”
The students were able to raise over $600, not including the jar from the Exton Mall.
With the money collected, the NAHS went out and purchased art supplies from a list provided from Andrew Jackson.
“We bought over 40 jars of paint – both acrylic and tempera – several packs of Sharpies, tapestry and yarn needles, brayers, over 100 paintbrushes and foam brushes, 1,000 sheets of both black and white construction paper, and electric sharpener, lots of Elmer’s glue, a ridiculous amount of glitter and 20 or so blending stumps,” Benson said.
Whatever was collected from the jar at the mall and the remaining $20 leftover after purchasing the art supplies will be put onto a gift card and sent to the school.
Benson, her mother and Spencer Parke delivered the items to the school.
“It was a very fulfilling moment,” Benson said. “When we got there, we were excited to meet the kids and Ms. (Uliano). We got there during, I believe, an energetic first grade class and were greeted warmly. The kids were awestruck by the supplies and helped empty the bags onto the tables.
They were elated – just so excited. It was very heartwarming to know our efforts mean so much to them.”
It may have meant a lot to Benson and the other members of the NAHS to do something that may not seem so big to help others, but to the students of Andrew Jackson and Uliano, it meant everything.
“This donation of art supplies is an amazing support to my students,” Uliano said. “Not only does it replenish some supplies that are old, beat up and running out, but it also allows me to introduce new and exciting materials to my curriculum.”
Now these students can truly delve into their creative talents with supplies which will help them discover some skill they may have never known they had – or just teach them something new and exciting.
“I wanted to teach my students how to sew and now I have needles to do that,” Uliano said. “I wanted to start printmaking and now I have acrylic paint and brayers. It’s incredible that now I can teach things I’ve only dreamed of. Our hearts are warmed by the kindness of the Henderson High School students and families. We know that they understand the power that art can hold for children and understand the necessity of it in our society.”