Excitement, cheer fill Norristown school during annual gift lottery

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Stewart Middle School in Norristown was brimming with holiday spirit on Monday.

"Definitely in the spirit," laughed Principal Dr. Camil Culbreath, who was decked out in a candy cane headband.

Culbreath explained the school has been 100% virtual since March, but that it was not going to stop their annual gift lottery for 5th through 8th-grade students.

Each year, presents are donated by community organizations, teachers and generous citizens.

"Because of this pandemic and the challenging time, we want to make it extra special for everybody," Culbreath added.

Shital Patel, of Eagleville, wanted to help and called her friend, teacher Nicole Corrado.

"She reached out to me knowing that I was a 5th-grade teacher, and she's like, 'I'd like to help.' And I thought, 'Just my homeroom or just my quad?' And she said, 'Nope, every single 5th grader will receive a gift,'" Corrado said.

Patel donated, fundraised, gathered, organized, shopped and wrapped to ensure there was a gift for each of the 207 5th graders.

"We put the tags online. Many people took the kids' tags, and they went shopping for the kids and dropped them off to me. Other people Venmo'd us money per kid and we went out and did the shopping," Patel said.

This is always a joyful tradition at the school, but it's particularly meaningful this year.

"It felt nice because I could actually see my teachers in person," 5th grader Alberto Olmedo Diaz said.

Waunita Prosser, whose daughter Autumn is in 5th grade explained, "She's anxious to meet our homeroom teacher for the first time- like she said this morning- she's going to see him for the first time in person rather than on the computer. She's excited about that."

"It's kind of a wonderful way to welcome them to Stewart, even though they actually have never been in the building since we've been virtual all school," Culbreath said.
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