HEARTWARMING: Teacher adopts student from Philadelphia school

ByBeccah Hendrickson via WABC logo
Thursday, December 19, 2019
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Teacher adopts student from Kensington school. Beccah Hendrickson has more on Action News at 6 p.m. on December 17, 2019.

PHILADELPHIA -- It's often said that teachers can have a profound impact on the lives of their students. That would be an enormous understatement when it comes to a teacher in Philadelphia and one of her students, who now calls her mom.

For the staff at Willard Elementary School in the Kensington section of the city, the signs were always pretty obvious that something was wrong.

"He's a 5-year-old boy who was getting himself to school, waiting around, not knowing who was going to pick him up," said Marianne Kennedy, a teacher leader at the school.

This was the case for most of the 2015-2016 school year, however, the teachers would only do so much.

"I would clean him up every day in the morning. He was just a child, you could tell he needed a lot more love and support than he was getting," said Penny Hlat, the student's kindergarten teacher at the time.

That would all change when a call from Department of Human Services came one afternoon in May 2016. The boy had been sleeping on a cot for weeks.

Kelly McCloskey recalls being asked: "'He's got no place to go, would you be willing to take him?'"

She knew the boy only in passing.

"I did say, 'Let me call my husband first.' By 7 o'clock that evening, he was in our house. So I promised him everything was going to be alright and he would always have a connection to his family," she said.

Santo McCloskey is now 9. He couldn't be prouder of the place he now calls home, and of the people he now calls mom and dad.

"That was probably the hardest part through the whole process of trying to keep your emotions in check, because we didn't know. We didn't know if he'd be with us a month, three months, six months, we didn't know," said Chuck McCloskey, Kelly's husband.

After about two years, the McCloskeys officially adopted Santo.

His new home is just a few miles from where he first met his mom at school in Kensington. Those few miles, however, have changed his entire world.

"It just feels like he's always been here. He should've been here. You know, he belongs here with us," said McCloskey.