Princess Hughes: Making a difference where it counts

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IT’S ALL LOVE—Princess Hughes, third from left with 5th grade students from Weil: Kenneth L. Moore, Marcus D. Hall,  Parris Holiday, Jaimice Williams, and Rondaizia Sowell. (Photo by Gail L. Manker)

 

Fourteen years old and pregnant, Princess Hughes’ family was devastated; they had dreams for her to be a track star. Her mother a teacher, warned her she would now become a statistic.
Princess fortunately had other plans, and right then and there made up her mind that indeed she would not be a statistic. And she set about proving everyone wrong.
 It is with determination and zeal that she pressed on to complete her education and give back to her community. Because of the untimely death at age 47, of her mother, she was additionally pressed into the service of finishing the raising of her two sisters as well as her own.
Now only 33, Hughes went on to have three more children, she has seen her sisters go to college and has supported her brother all while managing to complete a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Investigation and received a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Point Park University.
As her children became school age, she began volunteering at Pittsburgh Weil, helping out in their classes. It is here where her passion for this school and these children began to really manifest itself.
“I just felt that the negative images about this school needed to be squashed, and that we just need to work to let folks see how these kids could shine,” she said. Because of her reputation for advocating for youth, when a “Parent Advocate” position came open with the Hill District Education Council, two parents whom she worked with gave her name to HEDC leadership.  She was called and ultimately hired for the job.
In this official role, she works closely with the School Social Worker, Mary Wortella in helping to identify resources that families may need to help insure that issues do not hamper learning.
Princess came to Weil as a working parent with expectations of the school and its staff, but over time “I’ve enjoyed being able to observe how she has evolved and grown to become a team member with expectations of herself,” she said. “And moving into the job with the HEDC seemed a natural fit.
“I find her to be one of the most dynamic people I’ve ever worked with, and her efforts go far above and beyond the call of duty in her work with families; I don’t mind saying she has been a model for me. I have learned a lot about engaging more effective interactions with the families of our students.
 “And In my 20 year career with the PPS, I’ve had three different tenures here at Weil, and I have never seen the kind of results Princess is able to achieve through her unique fundraising ideas.”
 “I began some fundraising activities just to raise money to take the 5th graders on a nice trip at the end of the school year,” Hughes said. “Two of them are “Juicy Wednesday” where we sell juicy bars, and juicy drink boxes, and dress down/or Steelers gear Friday; it has been a lot of fun and the money has been piling up.”
Renata Copozolli, the pre-school teacher and Family and Community Events Coordinator, works with Hughes surrounding activities and events. She says that the attendance at family fun night and other activities has quadrupled since Princess has been working with families.

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