When school children are surrounded by dingy walls marred by dirty hand prints, countless scuff marks, and traces of pencils and markers, what does it say? At Balboa Elementary in San Diego, it says more than just that 700 elementary age students go to school here, year round. It also speaks to the many ways that budget cuts have taken their toll on the school environment. With National Education Association’s Outreach to Teach, more than 400 NEA volunteers--mostly college students and retired educators--set out to make sure those walls tell students that their education is important.
Fresh coats of paint and charming murals on interior and exterior walls are just part of the work that NEA completed on June 27, 2009. With the help of partners from First Book, the library was transformed into an oasis, the likes of any commercial bookstore. And with the expertise of designer, Evette Rios of the Rachel Ray Show, the teacher’s lounge is fit for royalty.
Inspired by the White House initiative, United We Serve, NEA student members returned to the school on Monday. At a joint assembly with the elementary students, college students talked about volunteerism. They discussed what it means to do something meaningful for someone else, even if you don’t know their name or what they look like. As a result, the students at Balboa plan to “pay it forward” by developing their own community service project while they are in school this summer.
Community service is a core value for college students. All over the country, similar Outreach to Teach projects are executed in states like Kentucky, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan. If you are a college student, feel free to hook up with a project on your campus through the NEA Student Program, or better yet, start one of your own!