What if your kids could go to the school of their dreams? They might wish for a big, colorful playground. All-day recess. Fast food in the cafeteria. No teachers. But students from J.J. Rhoads Learning Center in South Dallas had something different in mind. After learning about SLANT 45, they chose to beautify their school—making it child-friendly in celebration of what they wanted and how they wanted to learn. They drew pictures of things they wanted to change—a broken gate, for example.
So 50 students grades two through five, along with 40 helpful and willing Bank of America volunteers, got to work on September 20. According to school counselor Michelle Jordan, they designed four different murals cascading up the stairwells and across the blacktop. One features children and teachers working on math problems; one depicts kids reading; and another “shows children of all races uniting to make the world a better place,” Jordan says. The mural on the blacktop is a colorful map of the United States, making it fun for kids to learn social studies.
Additionally, the students and volunteers designed an “incentive room,” where students who score a grade of 90 or above on their tests or report cards can come for 30 minutes of playtime. “It makes kids want to excel,” Jordan says, adding that the room includes an Xbox 360, foosball table, ping-pong table and beanbag chairs. Bank of America also donated a volleyball net, basketballs, soccer balls and other equipment to the school’s physical education classes. Jordan thinks it’s great that the students are learning how to give back.
“They were happy and excited. … They didn’t mind working—and it was hot!”
She adds that a few of the kids even cried when they were told they couldn’t participate (because they didn’t turn in liability forms). “They realize what they’re doing is for them and their school. They’re all growing up with each other. … They want to protect one another.”
It sounds as though they’ll continue to do just that. Jordan points out that the students are eager to do more service learning projects, now that they understand the positive effects of hard work and perseverance. She says, “This school is for them. … They’re very happy with the results.”