Future educators aren’t waiting until they have classrooms of their own to make a difference in students’ lives. After hearing about a school in need, CEA Student Program (CEA-SP) members took action and organized a day of cleaning, painting, and more to create a welcoming environment for needy students.
Last Saturday more than 80 CEA-SP members — education students from six Connecticut universities — planted flowers, mulched garden beds, washed windows, painted doors, inscribed inspirational sayings in hallways, and even installed white boards.
This recent beautification project was just one piece of a multi-year effort the CEA-SP undertook at Hopeville Elementary School in Waterbury. The university students transformed the school’s grounds last spring, have led an academic carnival for the students, and even held a book drive to support the school.
“Studies have shown that the school building has an impact on kids and their performance,” said CEA Educational Issues Specialist and Student Coordinator Michele Ridolfi O’Neill. “By making the school more welcoming, the CEA-SP members have made it a place kids are proud to attend — and that makes for a positive impact on their school experience.”
Cori DeLorge, CEA-SP state chair and a UConn student, said that projects like this help the CEA-SP members realize that there’s more to teaching than what they learn in college.
“Teaching is not just you and your classroom,” she said. “It’s about the whole community.”
Hopeville is a school with significant needs. Over 90% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and the building is over 100 years old.
O’Neill said that the school doesn’t have money for SMART or Promethean Boards and has even lacked white boards, so teachers are left using dusty chalkboards. CEA-SP members purchased white boards at Home Depot that they cut to size on Saturday and installed in classrooms. Many students stayed late in order to be able to install more white boards.
The school community greatly appreciates the students’ hard work to improve their building. “After our project at Hopeville last spring, the teachers at the school were floored. They told us they loved what we did,” DeLorge said.
“This project at Hopeville was a win for everyone,” O’Neill said. “CEA-SP members got to work together on a project that benefits a needy school community, and they got to see the immediate results of their work. It’s something important that they’re able to do for these kids.”
DeLorge said the program keeps growing due to her fellow students who are passionate about teaching and motivate other students to get involved. In a testament to the CEA-SP’s success, the student program has won the Outstanding State Affiliate Award from NEA three years in a row.
Photos by Megan Funaro. To see more photos, visit the CEA Student Program Facebook page.