City R.E.A.C.H.ing Out to Beautify AISD Campuses
By Office of Communication
Posted on October 02, 2012, October 02, 2012

Jordan Williams is such a tiny little guy he can barely see over the shrubs in front of Morton Elementary School. Yet there he was Monday afternoon, clippers in hand, clip, clip, clipping away at the shrubs, with a little help from a friend, of course.

The friend was Arlington Police Officer Gustavo Moreno, who held the kindergartener aloft as he did his part to contribute to a school and community effort to beautify the elementary school that has been a staple of this neighborhood for years.

"People tend to forget, because Arlington is so big now, that it's still made up of small neighborhoods with neighborhood schools supporting them," said Morton Principal Stephen Paulsen. "That's what makes this effort so great.."

The effort to which Paulsen refers is the Beautification Project underway for six Arlington Independent School District schools through the Arlington Police Foundation's Project R.E.A.C.H (Rejuvenating Arlington, Creating Hope), which uses a variety of restoration initiatives targeting neighborhoods with large numbers of at-risk youth.

Thanks to a $12,000 grant from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation to Project R.E.A.C.H., Morton along with Thornton and Johns Elementary schools, Carter Junior High School and Sam Houston High Schools will get mini-makeovers over the next several weeks, each totaling around $2000. Volunteers are doing all the work.

"This is about more than just making a school look nice," said Moreno. "Anytime you get these kids believing in their own community and helping out, that's what it's all about. If we can keep one of them from eating a bag of chips and throwing it on the floor because he knows that someone in his community may say it looks bad, I think you've won."

Monday's gathering at Morton was the first of the bunch that will take place through November 3, most of them held on Saturdays. Morton's Saturday event was rained out but many parents, students, police and fire officials were on hand Monday to plant flowers, trim shrubs, collect trash and cut shrubs while eating hot dogs and even washing cars.

Next up on Oct. 13 is Carter, which will make improvements on its courtyard. On Oct. 20, Sam Houston Principal Fernando Benavides said the school would erect new benches and plant more shrubs in front of the school.

"When we can connect our community with the youth in their neighborhood," said Officer Stephanie Gillespie, who works closely with Project R.E.A.C.H., which began in response to rising crime rates and declining quality of life, "we give a voice and empower for them to access services and work to improve their community."

Zenova Williams, mother of the shrub clipping Jordan, was one of the volunteers at Morton. She's president of the Morton PTA.

"It's important that schools and community go together, hand in hand," Williams said. "You educate the child and that educated child pours their talent back into the city. It's a win-win, don't you think?"

By Ken Perkins

Beautify

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