One in an occasional series about Mitchell Elementary School.
Stephanie Andrewlevich missed her Philadelphia Marathon goal by more than a half-hour. But she exceeded her goal for funding resources for the needy students at Mitchell Elementary beyond her wildest imagination.
The Southwest Philadelphia school lacks adequate technology for its 550 students. So its enthusiastic principal ran the marathon last month to raise awareness of the school's plight and perhaps to raise funds to pay for more computers.
A month after the marathon - and after The Inquirer and Daily News told readers about Andrewlevich's quest - donors large and small chipped in to fully fund a project that will buy 240 computers, enough for each classroom at the K-8 school.
The total tab: $94,400.
When sixth-grade teacher Laura Steinberg heard the news, she was so delighted that she nearly shouted. Steinberg had five computers in her classroom, but she's down to four after one wore out. Another of the machines still standing is held together with duct tape.
Her students are bright but learn at varying levels, and the new technology will make a world of difference for kids living in a poor pocket of the nation's poorest big city, Steinberg said.
"I call the kids my superheroes," Steinberg said. "This technology helps them to harness those powers."
Some donors gave $5. Some gave $500. Some were enthused, and some were incredulous - and exasperated - that it was necessary for Andrewlevich to run a marathon to get her students what they need.
One pair of funders wrote to Andrewlevich: "As 2 retired Phila. teachers, we are so impressed by your work. You are definitely an inspiration to all. Thanks for what you do."
Another funder wrote on the project's GoFundMe page: "This is what it's come to for decent education. Bless her."
Individual donors gave $18,696 through the online fundraising site.
Mitchell students themselves raised $1,356 with a fun run they completed two days before Andrewlevich's marathon. They ran laps around the building at 55th and Kingsessing, bringing in $5 or more apiece to help fund the technology they need.
"To me, that's everything," said Andrewlevich.
Children who ran won blue plastic bracelets that proclaimed: "We Are Mitchell!" but also more: a sense of ownership. Their money will buy four computers.
"More than I expected, the kids got very excited over their ability to affect their own school," she said. "I couldn't just ask for the donations - I had to run the marathon to show what I would do for them."
Sixth grader Sydney Ortiz, 11, said the run was important.
"We needed to do it," she said. "We need computers so we can learn more about math and reading."
Kasir Wright, also in sixth grade, said the effort was worthwhile. "Ms. A ran 26.2 miles," Kasir said. "That was really cool."
The remainder of the money was raised by donors who gave large sums to help Mitchell meet its goal. The Weis Foundation gave $10,000, and John and Sarah Wildemore, donors from Berwyn, gave $65,000.
After reading The Inquirer story last month about Andrewlevich's marathon and Mitchell, John Wildemore said, he clipped the story, "thought about it for a week or two, and then said, 'You know what? I'm going to do something about it.' "
The couple toured the school on a Friday afternoon. They were taken with the students, with the teachers, and with Andrewlevich, who was drawing names from a hat, rewarding students who had perfect attendance for the week with doughnuts.
"She has so many creative ways to keep the children interested," Sarah Wildemore said.
So the Wildemores wrote a big check, excited that they knew exactly where their funds were going, and that the impact would be almost immediate.
The couple's children attended public schools in the more affluent Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. Students in Southwest Philadelphia deserve a chance, too, Sarah Wildemore said.
"It's the city schools that need the extra help," said Sarah Wildemore.
The run itself - Andrewlevich's third marathon - was brutal, she said. She was well-trained, but struggled on a cold and windy day, missing her goal time of 41/2 hours by more than 30 minutes.
"I cried multiple times," she said. "I wanted to quit multiple times. If it wasn't for the kids, I would have quit. But I just kept seeing their faces in my head."
So it feels like a victory. The computers, due to arrive in January, are a major part of that. But there's more.
Staples offered Mitchell a 30 percent discount on the technology purchase, so the $94,000 will cover a few more things: 80 iPads, and more support staff for the school's hallways and its forthcoming Peaceful Place, a room for children to go when they need to cool down.
Extra money also will equip Mitchell's annex, which has been empty for years, as a community and family engagement center.
Andrewlevich knows the students' needs are still great: More support in the hallways and on the playground would make a big difference.
The art teacher would love tables for her room, instead of making do with old desks pushed together. Andrewlevich dreams of more after-school programs to anchor her students.
"We want this to be a legacy of what Mitchell is," she said, "and not just a stopgap."