The Friends of Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls is making its public debut this Saturday at the first annual Mifflin School Community Festival.

The Friends of Mifflin School [FOM], a standing committee of the East Fall Community Council that began in June of 2012, will celebrate its affiliation with Mifflin and its families by raising awareness and funds for East Falls' neighborhood public school.

The festival will be held on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and will feature games, raffles, storytelling, and performances by Diva Dollz and the Merge Dance Studio. In addition, the school will throw open its doors for community members to get a glimpse of what's going on inside.

"This is our big kickoff event to show that this is happening, and that the community is rallying behind the school," said George Matysik, co-chair of FOM.

Projects in the works 

While Saturday serves as the official public unveiling for FOM, they've been busy in the several months since their inception, securing funding for a variety of programs for the school.

Prior to the formal organization of FOM, the EFCC received a $4,500 grant this spring from the Public Citizens for Children and Youth's Picasso Project to create a quilt recognizing the school's "Peaceful Posse," an anti-bullying initiative at the school.

According to Tom Sauerman, president of the EFCC, the "Peaceful Posse" project was so well-received by the Picasso Project that his organization was asked to write another grant request in the field of the arts.
The result: "On the Other Side of the Fence," a musical theater production, is scheduled for spring 2013 and will feature fourth and fifth graders from Mifflin.

"About 13 schools were invited [to submit requests], and our grant had the school with the highest score among them," proclaimed Sauerman, who said that efforts are underway to secure theater professionals to assist with the show.

Over the summer, FOM assisted with bringing before and after-school care, a result of requests by working parents in the community. The care is run by Sycamore Tree, a ministry of the Reformation Lutheran Church in East Mt. Airy, which runs a similar program at Edmonds Elementary School.

"The faculty, parents and principal are more than pleased to have this arrangement by an outside group who already do it elsewhere," said Sauerman. "That's a success."

Also occurring in the after-school hours will be tutoring sessions, with five education majors from Arcadia University visiting one day a week for over an hour to tutor children in the after-school program.

In addition, FOM is in consultation with Philadelphia University's School of Design and Engineering about establishing a mentoring program, one where students from the college will speak with older students at Mifflin about careers in landscape design, graphic design, textile design, and other fields.

"We want to make sure that these kids graduate from eighth grade with the goal that they're going to graduate from high school," said Sauerman.

A community support system 

The work of FOM is being recognized by both staff and families at the school.

"What they do for us is everything," said Mifflin principal Leslie Mason, specifically praising FOM for their work in securing arts programs for the school. "They give us everything that we don't have."

East Falls resident Chris Caporellie said that he is "cautiously optimistic" about Mifflin.

Caporellie's two children were previously enrolled at St. Bridget Elementary School, but enrolled at Mifflin this year after the school closed in June. So far, there haven't been any problems for his family, and he related that some of the school work his children are assigned appears to be above that of St. Bridget's.

"We know we're going to have to pitch in and help out," said Caporellie, "but we're happy."

"This school is the center of this community, as was St. Bridget," observed Sauerman, recognizing these schools as the core educational institutions for local children. "Losing St. Bridget's was awful, which makes it all the more important that we strengthen Mifflin School."

And for FOM organizers, that strength will emanate from the entire community, from Abbotsford Ave. to Warden Dr. as Matysik phrased it.

"At the end of the day," he surmised, "we need everyone to find out about the great work going on at the school."