Thanks to the philanthropic efforts of retail chain Target and the national nonprofit Hearts of America, students at James R. Lowell Elementary School in Olney will be able to study and check books out of a new state-of-the-art library, which includes more than 2,000 new books and a complete upgrade to its computer system.
The renovation also includes the addition of new furniture, carpeting and shelves. Lowell, at 450 W. Nedro Ave., is among 32 schools to receive a Target library makeover this year, and the only one in Pennsylvania.
“We had over 200 Target and Heart of America volunteers arrive [last] Friday and [they] unveiled the library makeover, which was really a project that was ongoing for the last four months,” said James R. Lowell Principal David Lugo, who noted the volunteers also completed all the beautification tasks. “And now, each student will get seven brand-new books to take home, so reading continues at home. One of our mottos is ‘today a reader, tomorrow a leader.’”
For many students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia, digesting and retaining schoolwork and strengthening their reading is nearly impossible, due in large part to students not receiving the proper nutrition at home. Hunger leads to many problems, including the increased difficulty of concentrating on school tasks.
To that end, Target has also partnered with Philabundance to provide more than 20 pounds in groceries — per month — to all 998 children in the school.
According to the district, more than 83 percent of Lowell’s students come from economically disadvantaged households, and ranks seventh on the district’s School Performance Index.
The food distribution is made through Target’s Meals for Minds Food Pantry initiative.
“This has brought the families even closer to the schools, and has brought the community together,” Lugo said, adding that volunteers from neighborhood church St. Paul also helped with the food distribution, and that Lowell’s teachers all pledged to assist in the monthly distributions. “The ‘Meals for Minds’ process is that you feed [students’] bodies and minds to create success. This is truly a partnership that goes hand in hand with the connection to the community.”
By all accounts, Lowell seems to be going through both an actual and ideological makeover. According to Lugo, the school recently hosted its back to school night, in which he wanted to send a message by wearing a hard hat.
“I had the hat on because we’re going through a construction, but it’s truly because our future is under construction,” Lugo said of his school, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “Our kids right now are literally our future, and we are helping them create that future as they go through their primary years.”