Imagine seeing your elementary school principal dressed in an outfit reminiscent of the wild west, while riding a horse around school grounds. For some, the imagery is something that would forever remain a humorous thought, but for students at Evans Elementary School in Yeadon, it was a lived experience.

After a noticeable decline in students completing their reading assignments at home, Dujuana Ambrose-Dessau, principal of Evans Elementary School, posed an offer many of the students couldn’t refuse.

“So I said, ‘Let’s do some kind of challenge to encourage kids to read for seven weeks,” Ambrose-Dessau said.

For seven weeks, students were instructed to read a series of their favorite books and for every 15 minutes spent reading; time was recorded and signed-off by their parents. For more proof of completion, the students had to write a reflection on what they read. 

Dujuana Ambrose-Dessau, principal of Evans Elementary School, dressed as a cowgirl with student Evangelina Elides and "Achilles."

Dujuana Ambrose-Dessau, principal of Evans Elementary School, dressed as a cowgirl with student Evangelina Elides and “Achilles.”

Collectively, the students had to meet a requirement of 250,000 minutes and the students also proved they meant business because they exceeded their principal’s limit by an additional 2,000 minutes.

After raising her challenge, she encouraged students to toss their own into the ring through a raffle.

“We had kids make suggestions so they would feel they had a choice in what happened,” Ambrose-Dessau said. “As as long as it was reasonable,” she added with a chuckle.

“So, this was the one chosen,” she said.

The winning suggestion challenged Ambrose-Dessau to dress as a cowgirl and ride a real, live horse.

“The moment we saw what won, I said, ‘Where in the heck are we going to get horses from?’”, she said.

In addition to Ambrose-Dessau riding a horse, second-grader Evangelina Elides, who independently read the longest at 1,880 minutes, was also rewarded with a horseback ride.

Immediately resorting to an internet search-engine, Ambrose-Dessau got in touch with Misty Godfrey, director of Hoof Prints stable located outside of Philadelphia, who hosts educational programs for equine-enthusiasts.

Godfrey eagerly provided two horses, 16-year-old “Achilles,” a black Friesian, a breed known for carrying many soldiers during Medieval Times; and five year-old “Candy Girl,” a “bay” or brown quarter-pony.

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