LOS ANGELES – LA Works and the United Way joined to renovate the Washington Irving Middle School in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national day of service, Monday. Over 1,000 volunteers from various organizations and corporate sponsors donated time, effort, and materials to help prepare the school as it transitions to being a magnet.
“This is as community building as it can get,” said Phillip Vizard, a sixth through eighth grade teacher, as he directed students and volunteers carrying out old text books and furniture to a pile outside. “We are transforming the entire school’s image within the community, we’re setting a great example because many of these people are not from the community; they’re coming from somewhere else to shoulder the effort that we want the whole community to share. It’s a great reflection of society and certainly a great reflection of LA.”
Several volunteers not affiliated with the school came together to show their support, including members from Americorp, UPS, and several community organizations also participated, said Ferrell Marshall, member of the board of directors of LA Works.
The effort included clearing out old furniture and text books from classrooms, re-painting the walls, and planting.
“Target has a huge team here. Target, Kaiser [Permanente], and Macy’s are some of the big teams that are here today,” Marshall said, member of the board of directors of LA Works.
Principle Kirk Roskam said he was delighted.
“The school has been completely transformed. Many of the projects that LA Works is doing and the United Way with the Volunteers and the Corporate Sponsors are not things that we would be able to do in five years. There just isn’t the money, the resources, or the time,” Roskam said.
Roskam added that the beautification project is part of an effort to change the school’s culture.
“Most people work in collaborative environments now; they work in science and in art mixed together, and they also work in competitive environments with technology, so we really wanted to have a school that is a magnet for that, so the students will be involved, both in science and in art, kind of like what you’d see at Google where the artists are working with engineers and the engineers are functioning as artists.”
Porshe Pearson, director of operations for LA Works, planned and executed the event. She liked the concept, she said, and saw how much help Washington Irving Middle School needed.
“This campus is very big and sprawling. There are different areas, and the student population had shrunk down a little bit. They weren’t using the whole campus. A lot of older classrooms were filled with old TVs that were broken, school furniture, and expired textbooks that they can’t use anymore, and I think this happened over a period of years, so there were at least eight classrooms filled to the ceiling with stuff.”
The effort, she said, will help clear space for a larger incoming student body as the school transitions to a new curriculum as an engineering magnet.
“Organizing and clearing out a classroom seems simple, but when you’re a school staff, and you don’t have a budget, and you don’t have people, trying to get these things done is difficult, so that’s where we come in, and we throw a lot of people at it and get it done in three hours.”