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At State of the Union, Pennsbury senior brings light to special ed


While tens of millions will tune into President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address on Thursday, a Pennsbury High School senior will be sitting proudly in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives witnessing history in the making.

Jake Woodard, 18, a special ed student, will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick, R-1. Jake said he is “honored and excited” to attend the event as well as to raise awareness for special education.

Jake was cited for his bravery and quick action in helping to save the life of a man who had fallen on a slab of ice and lost consciousness after hitting his head.

Fitzpatrick said, “I am proud to welcome Jake Woodard as my guest to this year’s State of the Union Address. Jake’s advocacy for advancement in special education policies across our district, through his own experience with dyslexia, will have a lasting impact in our community.”

Jake will also join other guests at a special dinner.

The congressman also had an account of Jake’s bravery during a Feb. 17, 2023, incident placed in the Congressional Record. He called the action “heroic.”

According to the account, Jake and his family were driving home from a holiday party that frigid night when a pedestrian waved them down to help an injured man.

While the adults around him were trying to decide what to do, Jake knelt down, talked to the man and took his vitals. After the victim lost consciousness, Jake cleared the man’s airway, stayed with him and helped emergency medical technicians after they arrived.

“I was nervous at first that night,” Jake said during a telephone interview just before heading to Washington, “but then I felt calm. I knew what I had to do.” He said he relied on his rescue training as a lifeguard and JROTC training at Pennsbury.

“Lifeguarding,” he said, “taught me what to do and JROTC taught me why to do it. It was my duty.”

Jake is the son of Ryan and Hollie Woodard of the Pinewood section of Levittown. Hollie, who teaches English at Council Rock North High School, and Jake drove to Washington together but she’ll have to watch the speech on television since guests are limited to one for each member of the house.

“I’ll be hanging out with staffers in the congressman’s office in the nearby Cannon House Office Building,” she said.

Hollie said she hopes her son’s selection will increase awareness of dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes reading very difficult.

“He couldn’t read until the sixth grade, this despite the fact he is very intelligent,” she said. “You can imagine how traumatic that must be.

“Both of us have done advocacy work, helping to raise awareness and move the needle on legislation to change the way reading is taught to dyslexic children.”

She said both she and Jake have worked very hard with the Pennsylvania State Education Association to help reduce for other children the kind of trauma Jake endured.

“Sometimes I’ve even had to embarrass him as I told his story, but he said if it would help others he didn’t mind the embarrassment. That’s just who he is.”

Jake will graduate from Pennsbury in June. He has finished his coursework there and is now enrolled in a trade program at Bucks County Community College that will help him decide his future.

“He just started there,” said Hollie. “It’s one heck of a week for him.”

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