South Philly PHA students and residents get free new backpacks for the new school year.

All last week, the PHA did backpack giveaways at each of its 15 sites that have children located at them.

Aiden Travis collects his free backpack with his grandmother, Judith Jackson.

Residents of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s complex near Wilson Park in South Philly were treated to a special backpack giveaway to kick off the new school year. It’s an event the PHA does every year.

“We decided to do the book bag giveaways because, at Philadelphia Housing Authority, we know that education is the real game changer and you don’t want children to [fall] behind,” said Nichole Tillman, the PHA’s executive vice president of communications. “Therefore we thought it was very essential for us to give them their basic supplies so they can be on an even playing field when they begin the school year.”

All last week, the PHA did backpack giveaways at each of its 15 sites that have children located at them. Students had a variety of different colored backpacks from which to choose for the new school year. Many parents were especially appreciative of the event given the sometimes expensive costs of putting children through school.

“I’ve noticed it happening in all the communities in Philadelphia and I think it’s great,” said PHA resident Yvonne Williams, who is a mother to 7-year-old Jaylen Williams. “It’s not cheap. Every little bit helps, so I think it’s amazing because it really does help us parents out.”

Williams is also a mother to two other children, one who is enrolled at Penn State and another who recently graduated with a psychology degree from Penn State.

“That’s the most expensive, but just elementary school supplies alone can be as much as $100 with the lunch bags and supplies and materials. So it adds up,” she said. “Some people have more than one child they have to prepare for so it can go into the hundreds very easily on top of what moms and dads have to do every month — pay bills and whatever.”

“These are some families that really need help and we don’t want to put any extra burden on them,” Tillman said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re at a community center where they can walk out of their house, stand in line and get their book bags.”

In addition to giving away backpacks, PHA also prioritizes students by giving away scholarships through its PhillySeeds program. PHA residents are eligible for the scholarship if they are seeking full-time admission to a two-year or four-year college, university or trade/technical school; and have a GPA of at least 2.5 or B-.

As part of the program, students who attain GPAs of 3.3 or above are eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship. A student with a GPA greater than 3.0 is eligible to win $3,000, and a student with at least a 3.7 GPA is eligible to win $1,000.

“Education is so important for us because we know education is the game changer,” Tillman said. “Education is lifting great people out of poverty and that’s what we want to do. We want to lift people up.”

For more information about the PhillySeeds program, visit