Shekilah Jerry, a 36-year-old North Philadelphia mother who entered a lottery drawing for 2,000 scholarship awards that would pay tuition to a private school of their choosing, said Monday she was calling on a higher power.
“I wasn’t sure, I was just praying, being hopeful,” she said.
As it turned out, Zaine Jerry had one more reason to celebrate his 7th birthday after winning a scholarship award along with his two older siblings, Zyair Fox, 11, and Zuri Jerry, 9. The trio were among winners in last week’s computerized random lottery by Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia. There were more than 10,000 applicants, officials said.
The data entry clerk for the Philadelphia Water Department said she wants a more structured and safer school environment for her children. Her biggest issue stems from her concern for her children over “getting a wholesome education and learning in a safe environment without all the unnecessary bullying.
“We were ecstatic,” said Jerry, who’s also the mother of 4-year-old twins. “We jumped up and screamed, gave each other hugs. This is a great opportunity. It’s wonderful.”
She applied to the city’s largest provider of scholarships for K-8 pupils after receiving a brochure in the mail.
Volunteers from the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia made calls to winners of the lottery drawing for scholarship awards a week ago from Franklin Square Capital Partners’ office in the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
Patricia Swayne, who works in marketing for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, placed calls to 20 families in less than an hour, notifying eight families of their scholarship award.
Language was a barrier for some Spanish speaking families but Swayne said she was able to convey the message. “They said, ‘Thank you,’ a lot,” Swayne recalled.
However, despite their language differences, Swayne said the emotions expressed by the award winners were not lost in the translation.
“They had really been struggling and this was good news,” Swayne said. “I kind of expected it. It’s a great opportunity, an awesome cause. I was hoping people would be just as excited as I was. I felt for them.”
Franklin Square Executive Vice President Mike Gerber, a CSFP board member, said, “The lottery is particularly exciting and full of positive spirit. My colleagues and our guests who volunteer for it rave about the experience. There’s nothing like delivering such meaningful, life-altering news to the kids and their families.”
“Our scholarships provide children with access to safe, quality schools, which would otherwise be out of reach for their families,” said Ina Lipman, executive director for the CSFP. “We believe that all children can succeed, and our program proves what is possible for children when given the chance to develop at a great school. Over 96 percent of CSFP alumni graduate high school, prepared and on time. We are thrilled to be able to continue offering these opportunities to families.”
Swayne, a 27-year-old Temple University alumnus, was making award notifications on behalf of CSFP for the first time.
“It’s another way for me to engage with people of the city,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jerry hopes to find a school that’s a good match for all three children and plans to attend Saturday’s open house to find out more about Blair Christian Academy, with a student enrollment of 39 pupils in kindergarten through 8th grades. She hopes to send all three to the Christian academy but added, “If they have to be split up, I’ll gladly do it.”
She said she wanted more empathy from teachers in seeking out the reasons a child may be acting out in school rather than resorting to zero-tolerance school discipline policies.