University City residents came out early on a Sunday morning to support the Penn Alexander School’s 2nd Annual 5K Run and Mile Walk for Art and Science. The K-8 school located at 4209 Spruce Street assembled 400 participants, comprised of current students, alumni, parents and even grandparents for the fund raising event.
The 5K had 165 runners racing through the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, starting and finishing at Penn Alexander School blocks away. To make the event inclusive for all ages and abilities, a mile-long walk was an alternative option for walkers to contribute to the cause.
For 18-year-old Keaton Naff, a Penn Alexander graduate, the 3.1 miles run was a breeze. Naff was the first to cross the finish line with a time of 16 minutes and 57 seconds. “I went to middle school here,” Naff said. “I ran to support the community.”
This benefit event raised $15,000 more than doubling the $7,000 total raised during the 2011 event.
The coordinator for the event, Michele Dixon, also teaches science to first-fifth graders at Penn Alexander. Last year, Dixon collaborated with the Home and School Association to launch the fundraiser in order to help finance the school’s programs that no longer receive funding from the School District of Philadelphia due to budget cuts. With a more successful outcome during the 2012 event, the science and art programs at the Alexander school will profit.
“The money goes to help pay for an art teacher that we have here that we don’t have funded from the school district,” Dixon said. “It goes to help get supplies for the science classrooms so they can have kits and hands-on materials. We have a garden it supports. It also supports pets in the classroom and nonfiction books for the teachers so that they can support science through nonfiction literature.”
Dixon said she believes that in order for the school to grow children need to have science. “We have to do this for our future,” Dixon added. “We have to find ways to find money. If the School District can’t do it we’re going to figure out a way to do it. You have to be creative and we’re trying to be creative and raise money for our school.”
Preparation for this event involved Dixon and Home and School Association members meeting once weekly for a year until two weeks before the event when they met every day. That investment of time obviously paid a dividend with the amount of money raised. In addition to the founders, the community contributed immensely to the cause.
“If it wasn’t for the neighborhood’s sponsors, we wouldn’t have raised that money,” Dixon said. “This community has really backed our school. This shows that communities will support public schools.”
Sponsors such as Diversified Research, Bauman Rare Books and USciences supported the school and helped raise the amount of money.
The community lending their aid was not a surprise to University City residents since the art program at Penn Alexander is completely financed by parents. The members of the community are willing to provide assistance for one another when needed, event organizers said.
The community shares such a strong bond that even parents of graduate students attended to show their support. Amy Neukrugh, a mother of two Penn Alexander alumni, participated to support her friends who helped organize it. Neukrugh noted the increased crowd compared to the 2011 run and feels that it is an inspiration to run. “The run brings people from the neighborhood together,” Neukrugh said. “It’s fun to be a part of and it’s helpful.”