Eagles QB Jalen Hurts donates $200,000 to buy air conditioning units at 10 Philly schools

Hurts donated $200,000 to buy more than 300 air conditioning units for 10 Philly schools. Hurts visited Edward Gideon School in North Philly to announce the news.

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Eagles QB Jalen Hurts speaking to students at Edward Gideon Elementary School

Jalen Hurts, starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, spoke to students at Edward Gideon Elementary School after Hurts donated $200k to ten Philly schools for air conditioning on April 19, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts believes his faith led him to hear about the problems facing Philadelphia’s school district.

“I was sitting there watching the news, and I rarely watch the news and I think that’s just God in itself… and it was talking about how it was so hot they had to cancel school,”  Hurts said. “I personally reflected and that was terrible, that was terrible to me.  You are not only taking away time from the kids but taking away opportunities for them to learn.” 

On Friday, the star player made a surprise appearance at the Edward Gideon School where he announced a $200,000 donation to install 314 air conditioning units in several Philadelphia schools. Among the beneficiaries are Clara Barton, Gloria Casarez, Castor Gardens, D. Newlin Fell, Thomas Finletter, Fitler Academics Plus, Benjamin Franklin/Science Leadership Academy, Edward Gideon, Abram Jenks, and Theodore Roosevelt. All these schools were forced to close early at the start of the school year because of excessive heat and lack of adequate cooling in the classrooms.District-wide, tens of thousands of students were dismissed three hours early and sent home because of excessive heat as temperatures soared into the 90s the first week of school.

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 “Just giving them the proper resources and putting them in the right environment, like any of us, anything that we do helps us (and them) to have the extra push to be successful in our dreams and in what we are doing,”  Hurts said. 

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts with Edward Gideon principal Shauneille Taylor
Jalen Hurts, starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles (left) with Edward Gideon principal Shauneille Taylor after Hurts donated $200k to ten Philly schools for air conditioning on April 19, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Staff and students at the Edward Gideon school gave Hurts a hero’s welcome on Friday, Students performed a rendition of “Hot in Here” by Nelly and “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps to celebrate that they no longer have to deal with heat issues.

Pre-k teacher Ameenah Johnson said she was beyond happy to see Hurts in the school.

“I’m excited,” she said,  as she jumped up and down applauding Hurts as he walked on stage. “My children are excited.  Wow, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime wonderful exciting experience.”

After 33 years of teaching in the district, Johnson said she  is no stranger to the problems facing Philadelphia schools. She said the new AC units that were installed will make it easier for her to teach and for her students to focus on their schoolwork.

 “It’s what we need, it’s for the children,” Johnson said. “They are always saying it’s hot we’re opening doors and we try to keep learning but it’s hard for them to learn when it’s overheated.” 

“I hate the heat,” said eighth-grade student Kamya Freeman. “It was very hard to learn honestly… so having air conditioning and cool air all around it feels really nice honestly.” 

Kaniya Mcgill, a sixth grader, said she remembers how hard it was for her to pay attention in class when the temperature hit 100 degrees.

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 “Our classrooms were really hot,”  she said.“They were having us cut off school and stuff because it was hot.“I’m really happy we have AC now.” 

The district installed 66 AC units Friday and plans to install 106 more units by spring and 142 by the end of summer. 

“We will not have to close these schools early when the temperatures rise above a certain degree,” said Superintendent Tony Watlington.

Officials said the schools were selected based on the buildings’ electrical capacity.  The district said they worked with The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office to ensure they were equitable in determining  the number of units to be installed in each school. However, there are still schools within the district that don’t have cooling units

Officials said the age of some of the buildings and electrical wiring in them make it harder to install units.

“People say why don’t you throw some more window units in,” Watlington said. “The average age of our school buildings is 73 years old.  We have a number of schools in excess of 120 years old, so because of that we have to do the rewiring of networks to accommodate these air conditions.”  

Watlington did not shy away from reiterating a pilot program for year-round schools next year which would mean proper AC would be critical if the buildings are used. 

 “This will help us move on the Mayor’s commitment to implement some pilots for year-round education,”  Watlington said.  

But, for now, he’s happy that 10 schools in the district will benefit from Hurst’s donation.

“This gift from Mr. Hurts is absolutely a game changer,” said Watlington. 

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts with Philly School Superintendent Tony Watlington at a pep rally
Jalen Hurts, starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, sat with Superintendent Tony Watlington at a pep rally at Edward Gideon Elementary School after Hurts donated $200k to ten Philly schools for air conditioning on April 19, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

During his visit to Edward Gideon School Friday, Hurts spent time doing yoga with students and watched performances by the marching band, the dance team and a solo dance by 7th grade student Nykayla Terrell. 

 “It’s very heartwarming, I feel in life we take some things for granted,” Hurts said.,

He said he hopes to continue to do more for the students in Philly.

 “it’s going to take time but it’s a true commitment to try and make change in all these different areas,” he said .“I don’t think the kids really realize how strong they are, I don’t think they realize what that strength can do in terms of perseverance and really chasing their dreams. The overall impact on them, and hopefully just sharing to them what they have inside of them. It’s just a matter of developing what they have inside of them.  That is the essence of what this is all about.”

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