Involved Parents Help Make St. James 'The Best'
A conversation with Ercel Ballenger, President of the Guardian Association of St. James School and father of Da'Jah Ballenger (7th grade).

What’s the purpose of the Guardian Association?
We are a group of parents meeting monthly to make St. James the best school in Philadelphia. We work through problems and find solutions. All parents are invited. The meetings are an hour and they provide an opportunity for parents to get involved.

What’s new this year?
We have a full leadership team who were elected to serve various roles for the organization. We are excited to have Shenia Reddy, a St. James School board member and parent of a graduate, now serve on our leadership team.

What are the ways that parents can be involved?
Parents and guardians can attend meetings, support basketball games, chip in and help with an event, coach, carpool and volunteer as a crossing guard or on Saturday service days.

How did you learn about St. James School?
We live in the immediate neighborhood and were hearing a lot of good things about St. James. We connected with other people who were sending their kids to St. James. We did some research and our first impression during our first visit was “we love it.”

What do you appreciate about St. James School?
We think St. James is the best school in the City of Philadelphia. The communication between the parents and teachers is really good. Kids at St. James came from the neighborhood schools, where communication wasn’t good and our kids weren’t safe. I love St. James School’s summer program - the curriculum is strong and kids have an opportunity to get on the right path. It’s important that for families from North Philly that there is no tuition. Parents appreciate the opportunity to give what they can. We are fortunate that we have a school in our neighborhood that puts children in a great situation. We love that our kids are finding good high schools. After St. James, if students work hard enough, they can go anywhere!

What is your dream for your daughter?
To be able to do what she wants to do in life. The school she came from before wasn’t great. SJS has motivated her to reach for the stars. I want her to be able — long term — to attend any college she wants to go to.

What is your dream for the future of St. James School?
Expanding to 4th grade was a great addition. The parents are excited about possible future growth. Parents want St. James School to remain small and personalized. It would be great to have a gymnasium for home games, concerts, events, plays, etc. 
We’re Celebrating Our Valued Volunteers!
Mary Hopkins, classroom volunteer, joining Riley during Saturday Academic Clinic to work on 7th grade math.
Robert White, ELA classroom volunteer, brought his dog Ellie to join the students at recess.
April 7th–13th is National Volunteer Week — a special time to celebrate our committed volunteers and the impact your service has on our students, school, and neighborhood community.

St. James School is blessed to have volunteers expand our impact and help drive our mission further, spreading our roots deeper. We thank the committed individuals and groups who lend their time, talent, treasure, and voice to make a difference in the St. James community.

The incredible work done by our volunteers includes:
Tutoring Mentoring Coaching Field Trip Help Nursing Help Kitchen Help Library Help Classroom Help Art Help Enrichment Help School Play Help Administrative Help Campus Cleanups Gardening Cleaning and Organizing Community Service Days Uniform Organizing and Ordering Church Outreach Board of Directors Committee Member Young Friends of St. James School And so much more!
Thank you volunteers!
Derrick Pitts showing Dominic (5th grade) The Franklin Institute's refracting telescope, with London (5th grade) looking through.
A Word with Derrick Pitts, The Franklin Institute's Inspiring Chief Astronomer
Derrick H. Pitts will be honored at our 5th Annual Scholarship Benefit on June 4th! Tickets are available on the website.

What attracted you to study science but particularly the field of astronomy?
Ever since I was very young, I've always been interested in science of almost any kind. But I was really very much interested in understanding how the universe works. The idea of studying space and astronomy was endlessly fascinating because looking at the night sky or thinking about astronomy gave me a thrill and exhilaration that nothing else did. Everything that we see and everything that is a part of our lives is created by the universe.

How did this lead you to The Franklin Institute and science education?
My career plan was to end up doing something technical or hands-on. But I fell into this really wonderful opportunity to share with people my fascination with how the universe works and also to share what I see as the beauty of the universe.

Here I can inspire kids to pursue learning about science and technology. I can turn kids on to an extremely exciting and fascinating world where something new and exciting is happening every day. Science is never boring, always incredibly exciting. Something new every day. Yesterday's Brontosaurus is today's Apatosaurus.

What excites you most about St. James School?
I really appreciate the work that St. James is doing in the neighborhood with the families as well as the students. The school's holistic approach to education is fantastic. It really helps to ensure students become lifelong learners, which will affect their lives in a very positive manner.

What advice would you give to young people, especially young people of color, interested in pursuing a career in science?
The universe is absolutely 100% wide open for careers in the STEM field or whatever you want to do. First things first, we're all born with the ability to do mathematics and physics — it's just a question of being taught well and being willing to put in a little bit of work to understand the ideas and concepts.

Be open to every opportunity to take a daring chance to do something different and exciting. You'd be amazed at what happens when you're willing to step out of your comfort zone. You can open your world, allowing you to do any sort of thing you can imagine.

In fact, if you dream of something you might want to do as a career but think that career doesn't exist yet, develop the skills to do it. Someone will be looking for your skills, and if you're the best you can possibly be, somebody will hire you to do what you love to do. So it will never seem like work, it will always seem like play.
House Industria competing in Tug of War during the House Cup.
In Their Own Words: House Industria
One fun way St. James School students and staff show school spirit is through House pride. Houses participate in service activities and take part in friendly competitions throughout the year, leading up to the House Cup Tournament in June. Our four Houses are Patientia (patience), Industria (diligence), Benevolentia (kindness) and Humilitas (humility). We asked members of Industria what it’s like to be a part of their House.

Industria is the most hard-working house I know! Everyone is treated like family, like they belong.” Shafir (Class of 2021)

I’m a great fit for House Industria because I work hard.” Kassan (Class of 2019)

It’s no mistake that most of the Engineering Club is in House Industria. We are natural problem solvers!” Nick Gurol, science teacher and Engineering Club leader

I like that everyone cares about each other in our House.” Sabreyah (Class of 2020)

One thing I like about our House is our field trips. Last year, we walked all the way to Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street to do service. It was a long walk, but it was fun! Plus, we stopped by Checkers.” Zyree (Class of 2020)

If you wear glasses, are smart, like to play games and laugh a lot, you should join! House Industria is special.” Dominic (Class of 2022)

Stay tuned for more about our other Houses in upcoming issues. Ready to join a House? All participants in our 5K Race on May 4th will be sorted into a House and receive a t-shirt in their House color. Learn more or register now!
Updates on Extracurricular Activities:
The Engineering Club loved their recent field field trip to Streamlight, Inc.'s flashlight production factory in Eagleville, PA. They learned the ins and outs of designing, testing, engineering, and marketing flashlights. Students had the exciting opportunity to create and engrave their own flashlights.

Students can now add ballroom dancing to their resumes! After 7 weeks of ballroom dance lessons with instructors from Dancing with the Students , our 5th graders mastered the tango, merengue, swing, and waltz.

Our Huskies basketball team faced off against their coaches and teachers in a close, spirited Staff vs. Students game (a beloved annual tradition!). Led by Coaches Greg Louis and Eric Todd, the adults were victorious this year!
One Way You Can Help This Week!
St. James School needs YOU to volunteer!
  • After school tutors for current students and high school alumni (4:00 pm - 6:00 pm weekdays)
  • Monthly community service volunteers (9:00 am - 12:00 pm on select Saturdays)
  • Academic clinic tutors (10:00 am - 1:00 pm on select Saturdays)
  • Library and Art volunteers (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • Church of St.James the Less and Welcome Table volunteers
  • Faith community partners to help us spread the school's mission
  • Young adults to join the Young Friends of St. James School

Interested in volunteering?
St. James School is a faith-based Philadelphia middle school in the Episcopal tradition, committed to educating traditionally underresourced students in a nurturing environment. The school is a community that provides a challenging academic program and encourages the development of the moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical and creative gifts in its students.
St. James School | 215-226-1276 |