Students clean up D.C. schools

Paint-speckled GW students and members of the Greek-letter community cleaned, painted and landscaped at area schools Saturday morning as a part of the Hands on D.C. annual work-a-thon to improve public schools.

More than 100 members from 10 GW fraternities and sororities joined about 60 other GW students to improve Shaw Junior High School, Francis Junior High and Van Ness Elementary.

The main thing is to make the schools a better place for kids to learn, said Roger Gibian, Hands on D.C. site coordinator at Shaw Junior High School. The 60 volunteers at Shaw Junior High School helped re-paint the school’s exterior doors and some of the building’s interior walls.

The Greek-letter organizations, which have adopted the Francis school, spent the day landscaping around the building, picking up garbage and painting inside doors and bathrooms, said Sean Kelly of GW’s Office of Community Service.

AmeriCorps members contributed at the Shaw school, and some Habitat for Humanity volunteers joined members of Greek-letter organizations at Francis Junior High.

The volunteers at Francis Junior High were divided into two groups of about 60 people. Each group worked a three-hour shift.

Seventeen members of the Sigma Kappa sorority and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity offered to transfer to the Van Ness site, which lacked between 20 to 30 volunteers.

This is an opportunity for the Greek community to do something together, said Tracie Anzaldi, director of the Office of Greek Affairs. Anzaldi was responsible for getting the fraternities and sororities involved in Hands on D.C. for their annual community service project.

This is good bonding between the three of us, said sophomore Sara Kerr while she painted the stalls in the Francis school bathrooms with two of her Alpha Delta Pi sisters.

Freshman Kristin McLeod from the Office of Community Service coordinated the Shaw event, which consisted mostly of GW students.

A lot of schools around here are kind of gross, she said. I know in my town no one came to clean the schools. Anything we can do to help is good.

Most volunteers emphasized the connection between Saturday’s work and the students who will benefit from it.

As long as the kids walk in on Monday and say, `hey, our school is bright and cheerful, and I want to be here,’ that’s all that matters, said Kimberly Boyles, a local resident who has participated in Hands on D.C. for two years.

Members of GW’s gymnastics team were busy painting a set of doors next to the Shaw building.

This event is wonderful, junior gymnast Stephanie Goldsmith said. Some of these doors were horrible. They really needed a good paint job.

Hands on D.C. incorporated 40 schools in the D.C. area. GW chose the two junior high schools because Shaw is part of GW’s For Love of Children tutoring program, and Francis is close to campus, said Kelly, who helped coordinate the Francis site.

GW tries to work where we already have relationships, Kelly said. He said only the D.C. schools where there’s need were included on Saturday’s clean-up roster.

The schools’ principals and maintenance staffs determine the projects that the volunteers will complete. Once work is finished, the schools’ regular staffs can focus on the buildings’ other much-needed jobs and repairs.

Many student volunteers and area residents said they enjoyed the unique opportunity to help D.C. schools at the ground level.

How often do you get a chance to do something hands on? Boyles asked, while she surveyed the set of freshly painted doors she had just completed. People ask for money left and right, but here you can grab a brush and help out.

Student Association undergraduate Senator-elect Joe Ardito (CSAS) was on hand at the Shaw site, but not for (positive SA) publicity, he said.

This is a great program, Ardito said. A lot of schools around the world need help. It’s great to see people come out and do it.

Sororities and fraternities maintain mandatory community service for their members.

We have mandatory community service, but this is fun to do, mentioned Alpha Delta Pi freshman Katie Warchut. Its fun to . learn about the community.

I’m having a good time, said Theta Delta Chi freshman Mike Anderson. We’re having a bonding experience – guys painting doors.

Hands on D.C. was founded in 1994 and held its first work-a-thon in 1995. That first year, the program helped 20 D.C.-area schools and raised $46,000 in pledges toward college scholarships for local students. Every dollar the volunteers raise goes directly to the scholarship fund.

More than 12,500 people have participated in the event over the years. They have raised about $300,000 in scholarship money and improved the quality of about 100 D.C. public schools.

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