Voices of VU PHL: Nick Petit, Thomas Holme Elementary School

Happy October, VU Crew! 

We’re excited to help create a more inviting schoolyard for the students, parents and faculty at Thomas Holme Elementary School!

We’re excited to help create a more inviting schoolyard for the students, parents and faculty at Thomas Holme Elementary School!

We can’t wait for our next event on Saturday, October 12 at the Thomas Holme Elementary School! Check out our Q&A with Nick Petit, a music teacher, to learn more about the school, its diverse student body and how we are planning to help create a more inviting schoolyard for students and parents!

Tell us about Thomas Holmes Elementary School and its student body.

Thomas Holme is a Philadelphia public school, serving students from Pre-K through 6th grade.

The population is diverse and we are located in Northeast Philly. 100% of our students qualify for free/reduced lunch, so we operate in an area that suffers from poverty. We also have all the typical conditions of urban schools. In addition, we have a high concentration of students that have special needs, and students that have IEP's. Our school features four Autistic Support classrooms, and an Emotional Support classroom.

In spite of all the challenges, or maybe because of them, Thomas Holme is a school that supports the arts in a very real way. We have full time dance, music, and visual arts teachers, with several after school programs that feature the arts, and a yearly musical production.

What is your favorite part about working at the school?

My favorite part is being a force for positive change in a system that supports it. Not all public schools can do that. I feel like I can make a difference, and that the opportunities that I bring to the community are really appreciated.

Why did you decide to apply for the beautification grant from Lowes?

We have a large piece of open ground in front of the school that is under-appreciated. We also don't have any opportunities for students to interact with the natural world. Their schoolyard is asphalt. There is so much to learn from being able to touch and experience plants. I applied for the grant so that I could build a Learning Garden for the students to plant and harvest things. We have turned some of our attention toward improving the features of the school because we weren't allowed to do everything we wanted with the grant.

What do you hope to achieve working with the VU Crew on Saturday, October 12?

We hope to manifest the vision of the Learning Garden, improve the schools external features, and create a schoolyard that is more conducive to a socialized recess and inviting to parents. As teachers, we take great pride in what we do for the students, but we don't often have the resources to make the external features match the high quality education that is happening in the classrooms. Appearances matter, and the hope is that by improving the schools facade, we can inspire pride in our community for Thomas Holme Elementary.

What beautification project do you think students are most excited about?

They will directly benefit from the painting of the schoolyard and the building of the buddy benches.The Garden will pay off for the students when we can go out and plant in the spring.

What advice would you give to your students about the importance of volunteering and giving back to your community?

Philly is full of “Do-it-yourself-ers”, and that's a good thing. Don't assume that it's someone else's job to improve things, and don't wait for it to happen without you. You should leave a place better than you found it. If you see something that needs to be fixed in a public space, YOU do it. This will not only make you feel proud of yourself, but it will make all the people who use that space happy to have it. We are all members of this community and we need to help each other out.

Joe Buckshon