Lessons in sweat equity

August 17, 2004

IT'S GREAT that Baltimore's Believe in Our Schools campaign is expected to save the school system from $5 million to $10 million in physical improvements to buildings and grounds citywide.

The greater result, though, is the sign of a return to the days when more people and businesses took an interest in their neighborhood schools, and a clear signal to city kids that folks outside their immediate crowd care about them and want them to succeed.

In the eight weekends since the school work began, more than 2,500 volunteers have improved some 100 schools, building from a June 26 start with work at three schools to some two dozen school projects a week in July. In the final two weekends before school starts Sept. 7, another 51 schools are slated for work.

Teachers, parents, their kids, friends, and volunteers from local businesses have spent a day or two making things a little prettier, sturdier, cleaner and more welcoming. Windows are now clean enough for kids to see through, classroom walls have turned from dingy brown to sky blue, cafeterias slick with grease and gunk are now buffed and repainted sunnier colors.

For the school system, busy marshaling its resources toward front-line staff, a helping hand with the backstop work of upgrading the facilities is a dream come true. For each school, the centralized planning and help reaching out to parents, companies and civic groups is a lesson in how to involve these groups in such work from now on. It's also a lesson in the power of numbers.

On July 31, 104 people showed up at Baltimore City College, painting 15 classrooms, a bathroom, two long hallways and a girls' locker room. About 120 volunteers took on Hamilton Middle School on July 10, removing old lockers, power-washing the outside, fixing lights, painting bathrooms and moving a wrought-iron fence.

For the kids who volunteer (or are roped into volunteering), it's a chance to work alongside grown-ups doing something to make school life tangibly better - and to mimic an adult work ethic.

That's surely worth a Saturday or two.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.