Clad in work clothes and equipped with paint cans, roller brushes and scrapers, 40 GW graduate students painted two murals and transformed a bare courtyard into a brand new play space at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School in Northeast D.C. Saturday morning.
Students in GW’s Global M.B.A. program were participating in Hands on D.C., a city-wide volunteer program designed to improve District public schools. The program hosts a Work-a-Thon each spring that engages more than 2,000 volunteers in more than 30 public schools, according to the organization’s Web site.
“It’s important to give back and provide a clean and safe environment in which to learn,” said Elizabeth Carlson, vice president for events for the University’s M.B.A. association.
Located in the heart of Northeast, Ludlow-Taylor is the educational home for 188 students. But unlike at some other D.C. schools, Principal Carolyn Cobbs has an artistic vision. She wants her students to play in a symphony orchestra, sing in a chorus and be captivated in art classes. There are “many different ways children can learn,” Cobbs said.
In this needy school district, Cobbs said she feels the increasing pressure to compete with charter schools.
“We’re vying for recognition,” Cobbs said. “You have to work hard to get the community to want to come to your school. There is more of a need to make your school the best.”
She believes her artistic path will help her reach that goal, and with the continued support of volunteers, she’s making this elementary school more child-friendly.
The GW students aided her effort for six hours Saturday, as they painted the doors and windows of a currently unused outside space, where Cobbs hopes students can eat and play. She said the students will be particularly excited about the new murals – one depicts students playing sports and the other shows a scene of butterflies and flowers.
In addition to volunteering, the students have already raised over $1,800 from family and friends and hope to eventually reach their goal of $3,000, as part of the Global M.B.A program. The program requires each student to attend a certain number of service events, like this one, putting a greater emphasis on community outreach.
Additionally, a new certificate program in responsible management was just approved by the school. First-year graduate students Ari Isaacman and Lisa Manning created the program in hopes of encouraging responsibility and sustainability through six hours of course work, 45 hours of extra curricular activities, and 50 hours of community service.
“We’ve all been in elementary school and we know what a difference it is to have a nice space to learn,” Manning said, referring to Saturday’s work. “Hopefully the kids will notice the difference and enjoy the rooms more.”
This article appeared in the April 27, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.