Stories From Starkweather

  • Starkweather Student Is Inspired To Help Others

    Eli and Will Armbruster watch as Peter Lim tries out wearable cane with sensors. Teacher Megan Loper helps Peter Lim try out his wearable sensor cane through the hallways of Starkweather Elementary School while Eli Armbruster (red shirt) and his brother Will observe.

    One never knows when inspiration will strike. For Eli Armbruster, a fifth-grader at Starkweather Elementary School, it was a routine visit to the eye doctor last year that led the youngster to design and create a device to help meet the needs of a student in the school's Multiple Disabilities Support (MDS) classroom.

    Following his doctor's visit, Eli was sitting in his room, working with his Lego Mindstorm Ev3 robotics set. His eyes were dilated, making it difficult for him to focus on what he was doing.

    "I thought, it must be frustrating to not be able to see," said Eli.

    It was at that moment that Eli set out to build something that would help him to see with his eyes closed. He created a device to wear on his wrist that used sensors and a motor that would pulse when he came into close contact with an object.

    "Since he was really little, he's been interested in science, especially computers," said David Armbruster, Eli's father. “We bought him a computer after first grade, and he has been teaching himself all sorts of programming ever since."

    With the encouragement of his then fourth-grade teacher, Tony Ambrosino, Eli showed the device to Starkweather MDS teacher Megan Loper to see if his invention could help any of her students.

    Mrs. Loper had a student in mind - Peter Lim.

    Peter is visually impaired, and while Eli's device could help him in that regard, due to Peter's mobility issues, the tool was ineffective. Like any good inventor, Eli went back to the drawing board.

    “It’s always been something I do,” said Eli. “When I see a problem, I try to solve it.”

    Eli, along with the help of his father David and younger brother Will, used PVC pipes to construct a wearable cane outfitted with warning sensors. Eli and his parents took the device back to Peter's classroom to give it a test run.

    Mrs. Loper and Mr. Armbruster helped secure the device onto Peter, and with some assistance from Loper, he made his way down the hallway. A sustained beep sounded as Peter approached the wall.

    "Do you hear that, Peter? That means we're at the wall. You need to turn yourself around," encouraged Loper.

    "I'm really curious for Peter to keep trying this," Loper told Eli, as the two discussed ways he could make the device better.

    "I think I need to make it slide better, and make it less clunky," noted Eli.

    Loper says Eli’s creativity is inspirational and refreshing.

    “The fact that Eli is a fifth-grader in our community who has volunteered his time and skills for the chance to help one person speaks volumes about who he is and what he is capable of in the future. Mobility is something many people often take for granted.  Many people can get up and move safely from place to place. With Eli’s invention, he is giving Peter the chance to have the freedom to move and explore.  I look forward to seeing what else Eli can do and my hope would be that Eli’s story will motivate others to share their gifts as well!”

    To help Eli improve his invention, Mr. Ambrosino applied for and received a mini-grant from the West Chester Area Education Foundation (WCAEF.)

    "What Eli is doing is the true embodiment of the missions of both the West Chester Area School District and the West Chester Area Education Foundation. Through this grant, we will be facilitating Eli's journey through the scientific process of invention, while creating a tool that can help a fellow student achieve their personal best," said Ambrosino. "With help from this grant, Eli will be able to dive even deeper into his creative ingenuity and create something that has the potential to improve Peter's life and the lives of others."

    Eli will work closely throughout the year with Ambrosino and Loper to continue to test his device and make the necessary adjustments to help Peter gain more confidence as he uses it, with the hopes of creating additional devices for more students.

    Each year the WCAEF awards mini-grants to teachers in the WCASD to support creative, real-world experiences for students.

    The WCAEF is an independent, non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization created in 2010 to attract private resources exclusively for the benefit of students and staff in the WCASD. For more information or to donate to the foundation, visit


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  •  Senator Tom Killion Visits Starkweather Elementary School and Discusses Anti-Bullying Efforts

    Senator Tom Killion visits Mr. Ambrosino's class

    Senator Tom Killion (R – Chester and Delaware) paid a visit to Sarah Starkweather Elementary School on November 1 to observe the school's Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program in action. Killion also introduced a resolution he sponsored designating the month of October as "Bullying Awareness Month" in Pennsylvania.

    Killion was invited to attend Morning Meeting in Mr. Ambrosino's 4th-grade class. During Morning Meeting, students spend time getting to know each other through various activities and a sharing circle. During Killion's visit, students paired up to create a special handshake and then said what they were thankful for, and discussed their weekend plans.

    Following Morning Meeting, Killion read to the students a resolution that he sponsored designating the month of October as "Bullying Awareness Month" in Pennsylvania. 

    "When you get to know each other and learn all about each other, then you also learn something else - you learn not to bully each other," Senator Killion told the students before reading the resolution to them.

    Senator Killion's message tied in perfectly with the class's Morning Meeting and PBIS. Senator Killion reads his resolution designating October as 'Bullying Awareness Month."

    "Morning Meeting brings kids closer to each other. When kids know each other better and have a safe mode of sharing and learning together, we see a decrease in bullying and an increase in relationships between different kids that we haven't seen in the past," said John Meanix, Starkweather's principal. 

    PBIS encourages good student behavior, and it taught just like other subjects like reading or math.

    "The behavior of our students has always been pretty good, but we saw a need for consistency. The way one teacher would allow students to act in his or her classroom was likely different from the way another teacher would allow his or her students to behave," said Meanix.

    At the beginning of each school year, school-wide expectations are set, and positive behavior is acknowledged in the form of "Wolf Bucks" (the school's mascot is a wolf.) Once a grade level or the entire school reaches set benchmarks, they can earn things like extra recess or a dance party.

    According to Meanix, the results of the program, now in its second year, have exceeded staff expectations.


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  • A Lesson in Empathy Brings a Visit from Philadelphia Eagles Star

    Alshon Jeffery visits Starkweather Elementary School

    The lesson was simple - teach kindness and empathy; the outcome was unexpected. Allison Morris and Stacy Esworthy, second - grade teachers at Starkweather Elementary School encouraged their students to write letters to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to lift his spirits after dropping a critical pass in the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on January 13. They never expected that the lesson would go viral or that it would reach Jeffery. 

    Enter the power of social media. The Eagles' star wide receiver caught wind of the students' letters after Raymond Johnson, father of Abigail Johnson, posted his daughter's letter on Twitter.  Jeffery was so moved by the actions of the students, that he planned a surprise visit to the school to thank them in-person.

    On the day of the visit, Morris and Esworthy told their students that they were going to have a special face-time session with Jeffery. The students, decked out in their Eagles apparel, sat patiently waiting to connect with the star player. Principal John Meanix continued the rouse and told students that there was a problem with the internet connection. He left the classroom to "fix" the problem. When he returned, he told the students, to their disappointment, that they wouldn't be able to face-time with Jeffery and asked if they minded talking to him face to face. The students broke out in cheers when Jeffery entered the room.

    Jeffery spent nearly an hour visiting with the students, answering questions, and signing autographs before he made his way out of the school. Students and staff lined the hallways and sang the Eagles fight song as Jeffery left the building. The day served as a reminder of how powerful the innocence of a child can be while creating memories for both the young students of Starkweather and Alshon Jeffery.


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  • 5th-Graders Attend the Career Fair

    Students attend the career fair.  Students attend the career fair.  Students attend the career fair.

    What do you want to be when you grow up? With so many choices, that can be a tough question to answer. 5th-graders at Starkweather Elementary School did a little career exploration last week at the school's 5th-grade career fair. Students had the opportunity to hear from a variety of parent volunteers who came to the school to talk about their chosen careers which included a physician's assistant, child psychologist, chef, small business owner, teacher, photographer, a biochemical engineer and more.

    Students attend the career fair.  Students attend the career fair.  Students attend the career fair.


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  • Starkweather Elementary School Helps Make Wishes Come True

    Stark Weather Winter Jam   Starkweather Winter Jam   Starkweather Winter Jam

    Students at Starkweather Elementary School raised nearly $1,300 for the Philadelphia, Delaware, and Susquehanna Valley chapters of Make-A-Wish. For a minimum donation of $1.00, students got to wear their pajamas to school and celebrated with a school-wide dance party on December 20.

    The gymnasium at Starkweather was alive with excitement as DJ Nick Johnson, of Nick J. Sounds, pumped popular dance tunes through the sound system. Both students and teachers alike showed off their favorite dance moves.

    The Starkweather Elementary School Winter Jam was organized by teacher Kelly Duffey, who has volunteered with Make-A-Wish for the past 13 years.

    "This foundation is something near and dear to my heart," said Duffey. "The families I have met and granted wishes for will forever hold a special place in my life. As a teacher, I strive to teach my first-grade students to give back and be kind. If they walk away with one thing from first grade, it’s to be kind to others and help make the world a better place."

    Make-A-Wish grants wishes to kids with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization believes granting wishes gives kids the power to make them feel strong, more courageous, and more determined to overcome their illnesses.


    Starkweather Winter Jam   Starkweather Winter Jam   Starkweather Winter Jam


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  • Starkweather Elementary School Donates to Unite for Her

    Starkweather Elementary School dontes to Unite for Her

    Starkweather Students Donate to Unite for Her


    Students at Starkweather Elementary School recently did their part to help women in the local community that are battling breast cancer.  5th-graders Ella Gentile, Elliot Smith, and Kate Van Riet, spearheaded the Students Unite for Her effort. Together with their fellow students, they raised over $650 for Unite for Her. The girls asked students to donate spare change, and each class that had a 100 percent participation rate was given the opportunity to play gaga ball, a game similar to dodgeball, with school principal, John Meanix. Every class in the school collected money.

    "It's great that all of the kids donated," said Kate Van Riet. "They wanted to play gaga ball with Mr. Meanix. I'm not sure all of them realized what they did, but they did a really great thing!"

    "A lot of women have breast cancer, so the more money we donate, the closer we are to finding a cure," said Elliot Smith.

    Unite for Her special events manager Cameron Cotrufello said the Students Unite for Her program has been very successful and continues to grow. "Starkweather is one of 64 schools that raises money for our organization. We're honored to be a part of their school."

    Unite for Her rewards schools for their efforts. "At the end of the year, we give a grant to any school that raised over $1,000," added Cotrufello. "That grant goes to a staff member or student with an immediate family member affected by breast cancer so the kids can feel the work they did impact their community."

    "It's a really bad illness," added Ella Gentile. "Finding a cure would change everything for women who have it. It would be amazing."

    Unite for Her, which is based in West Chester, is a grassroots effort that began in 2009. The organization helps bridge the gap between the medical and wellness community by giving women access to therapies that they would typically pay out of pocket for such as acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy, nutrition talks, and counseling sessions.

    Sue Weldon founded the organization after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and started researching information on therapies that would complement the medical treatments she was receiving. Unite for Her has grown from helping 24 women through one hospital affiliation to helping nearly 1200 women and partnering with a total of 36 cancer centers and hospitals. 

    Unite for Her gives women access to wellness therapies by giving them a $2,000 passport to spend on such therapies. Every recipient has a full year to utilize the passport.

    "They get access to these treatments that help with their side effects and symptoms without added medication and prescription drugs," said Weldon.

    For more information, please visit


    Starkweather Elementary School Donates to Unite for Her

    Unite for Her founder Sue Weldon receives a "big check" from fundraiser organizers Elliot Smith, Kate Van Riet, and Ella Gentile

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