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PHILADELPHIA – Rapper Meek Mill surprised hundreds of uniform-clad students at his alma mater, North Philadelphia’s James G. Blaine Elementary School, Wednesday morning. Only minutes earlier, the room had been calm, as Principal Gianeen Anyika led them in reciting the Blaine pledge: “We are smart, talented and peaceful.”

Once Mill appeared, however, “peaceful” was out the window as students waved, shouted and struck poses in selfies.

Mill visited Blaine to donate a backpack filled with school supplies to every student, supported by Puma, his longtime sponsor.

“I just wanted to come back and share my support to my hometown and the first school I ever attended,” the “Millidelphia” rapper said.

Mill’s visit to Blaine Elementary was part of a collaboration between the rapper and the School District of Philadelphia to donate more than 6,000 backpacks to district students in need. The school supplies he donates will also be distributed to Strawberry Mansion High School (another Mill alma mater), Richard R. Wright Elementary School, Edward Gideon School, Thomas Edison High School, William Dick School, William D. Kelley School, Jules E. Mastbaum High School, The LINC High School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Randolph Technical High School and The U School.

Assistant Superintendent Amelia Coleman Brown said, “I’m also a native of North Philadelphia, so to have (Mill) come back and be a model of what it is to work hard and make your dreams come true, as you can see it’s exciting for the students, it’s great motivation to start the school year.” She stressed that the new backpacks will make a huge difference for young students.

Mill’s face lit up as he handed young fans their backpacks, gamely exchanging fist bumps and smiling for pictures.

“It’s a good feeling, I’ve been up all night, I was in the studio all night ‘till 7 in the morning, flew here, came and gave out book bags and met the children. I seem a little rustled but … it’s out of love for the people in my city,” said Mill, who is headlining this weekend’s Made in America Festival.

Other adults in attendance mirrored Mill’s message of support: “We’re all here this morning to celebrate you,” said Superintendent William Hite Jr., as he addressed the student body. Mayor Jim Kenney added, “All the adults in this room love you and care about you.” Kenney joked that he was getting old and called on Blaine students to succeed him, pointing out that they are the future.

“Some people need it because some parents can’t afford it,” seventh-grader Jon’et Stratford said of the gift.

“I was like this,” said seventh-grader A’Keira Nelson, demonstrating her response by screaming and clapping.

“He came to our school,” added seventh grader Sabrina Gaymon.

Meek Mill was released from prison in April, having served time for parole violations stemming from a 2007 arrest. Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison, but in April the state Supreme Court granted the rapper extraordinary relief allowing him to be released from prison on bail. Mill has been busy since his release, creating the “Legends of Summer” EP and speaking out on social justice reform.

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(c)2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): MEEKMILL-BACKPACKS

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