Alumna hopes Patterson courtyard will bloom Once-neglected parcel gets spruced up

August 14, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Lucy DeLabio-Marzano, Patterson High Class of '57, looks at the inner courtyard of her alma mater and envisions students painting among blooming azaleas and budding tulips as faculty members dine alfresco at nearby picnic tables nestled beneath climbing ivy.

But for now, she will have to be satisfied with the seeds of her garden vision -- only the bloom-faded azaleas and small junipers are there, planted by DeLabio-Marzano and a group of students in May. But even by that small measure, the courtyard has come a long way from the neglected parcel it was just a few months ago -- littered with paper debris and shards of broken glass.

"Years ago, there were flowers and bushes in the courtyard. It was a meeting place for students and faculty," said DeLabio-Marzano, 56, who lives in Harbor View Park with her husband and does volunteer work at the school. "I'd like to see that kind of atmosphere return to the school."

She got the chance to make her dream of a garden courtyard come true when Henry Dorries, owner of the Lovely Florist and Nursery in Darlington, offered to donate some plants to Patterson High. Members of the local Key Club volunteered to pick them up and deliver them to the school.

"I expected a few flowers and shrubs," said DeLabio-Marzano, who was elected last year to a two-year term as an officer for the Patterson High School Alumni Association. "What I got was $1,500 worth of plants."

And even though she had never planted anything in her life, DeLabio-Marzano was determined to find a home for all of the donated greenery. So she bought a book on gardening, and went to work. "I've lived in a city rowhouse with a cement yard all my life," DeLabio-Marzano said, "so I'm reading and learning as I go along. "I see this as an opportunity to bring the faculty and students together; to create a living classroom that everyone can enjoy. Teachers could bring their students out here to complement their classroom lessons."

William Morrison, an assistant principal, supports DeLabio-Marzano's endeavors.

"We'd love to see it become a living classroom where biology students can learn about the environment and art students can display their work," Morrison said.

DeLabio-Marzano, a retired office manager, has toiled over the courtyard at least two days each week this summer. Her volunteer work is part of a larger revitalization process that began two years ago, when Bonnie Erickson became Patterson's principal.

A 32-year veteran of the Baltimore school system, Erickson has reformed a school that was targeted three years ago for state takeover because of "academic bankruptcy." The takeover threat was an unprecedented measure to reverse years of declining academic performance, poor attendance and high dropout rates.

In addition to making physical improvements, Erickson has created six self-contained academies at Patterson. Each academy focuses on specific subjects. "As the school has its rebirth, we're starting to brighten up our campus and upgrade our facilities, including the school's 37 acres," Morrison said. "The courtyard is a great example of what can be done when people are committed to making a difference."

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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