By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Things happen in Philadelphia’s Kensington area. Sometimes it is good things, sometimes it is bad things. Passersby tend to just look straight ahead and keep walking. Good Samaritans aren’t easy to find.

That’s not the case with Tyeriah Smith, a junior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School.

On Oct. 5 Smith left an after-school program at the Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center, took the Frankford Elevated train to Berks Street and then started walking homeward.

It was about 6:15 p.m., she recalls. She was passing a used car lot at Front and Thompson streets when a distraught woman called to her from within. Sylvia McCall, 56, who walks with a cane, had been browsing through the lot, looking for a car. The employees hadn’t noticed her when they released two guard dogs, locked the gate and left for the night. McCall was standing on the roof of a car, with the two snarling dogs below when she attracted Smith’s attention. She was trying to call 911 and give the exact location where she was trapped, and Smith gave it to her.

While they were waiting for help to arrive, Smith comforted the crying woman and called the dogs over to the chain link fence to get them away from the car.

Help was slow in coming. As a matter of fact, Channel 6 News arrived before the police, which is why the whole incident made the news nationally through the ABC network.

Eventually a police officer forced open a damaged section of the chain link fence, and while other officers distracted the dogs to the other side of the lot, he brought McCall to safety.

Now it was Smith’s turn to cry, but they were tears of gratitude.

McCall, she said, “was so grateful. I was happy to be able to help and so glad she didn’t get hurt.”

Smith, who lives with her mother, Staci, is a member of Our Lady of Hope Parish and attended Laboratory Charter School before Hallahan. “My grandmother (Joan Davis) wanted me to go to Hallahan,” she said.

Although for relaxation she enjoys art and music, after graduation she wants to go on to college to study for a career in pulmonary medicine.

“My grandmother died in 2007,” she said. “She had an emphysema attack. She helped raise me, and I loved her very much.”

At Hallahan, Smith is a member of the Ambassadors, a group that promotes the school to the community and takes part in open house programs and visits to elementary schools.

“I like the school, it’s really nice; it’s a lot of fun and there is always something to do with never a dull moment,” she said.

As Philadelphia’s first archdiocesan girls’ high school, Hallahan has equipped young women to go out into the world to make a difference. As Tyeriah Smith’s example shows, it is still doing that.

“She exemplified the Gospel values,” said Hallahan president Sandra Young. “She saw a woman in need and she helped. Like the Good Samaritan she stayed with her as long as she was needed.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.