Written by Susan Varghese, corps member at Sam Houston High School
Some of our earliest childhood memories include a playground: hearing the lunch bell in elementary school and running out to the playground in excitement, racing down the slide, or making a new friend on the monkey bars. But, for Smith Elementary, an over 100-year-old school, the students had their first taste of a playground on November 3rd, after Kingdom for Kids, City Year San Antonio, and hundreds of other volunteers spent the weekend building two playgrounds and transforming the back of the school into a nurturing, colorful, and college-ready space.
The school has never had a playground for the kids due to budgetary constraints; but now, after hundreds of helping hands, they have colorful murals with college logos, an outdoor classroom, landscaping, walking paths, a basketball court, tetherball, benches, picnic tables, gardens, and a volleyball court. During the service project, there was a DJ playing music outside, a college readiness fair which engaged kids’ inquisitiveness – even six- and seven-year-olds – in conversations about college, and an overall atmosphere of community and fun.
After just two days of service, slightly past 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 4th, City Year San Antonio’s Executive Director, Paul Garro, led the ribbon cutting ceremony. For Kingdom for Kids, led by Rick Cavender of the Rotary Club of San Antonio, it was their 11th annual playground project and there were also local politicians, such as Ivy Taylor, who commended all of our efforts. But, the dozens of kids surrounding the playground couldn’t take their eyes off the shiny blue metal, waiting to jump up and play at the snip of the scissors slicing the ribbon. Without a second to spare, once the ribbon hit the ground, the kids yelled in excitement and ran to the playground with their faces lit up, making all the work worth it. For as many decades as the playgrounds and artwork are at the school, a piece of all of us and the work we did will be there, too. Powerful, right?
Below is a letter of thanks from the Smith Elementary staff:
Smith Elementary students are energized to learn. They have enthusiastic teachers, a great classroom atmosphere and plenty of school spirit. We have an active PTA involvement that contributes their effortless time in assisting our students with school field trips, school holiday dances, and fall carnivals. We are also partnered with United Way Parent Partnership which supports our campus with parent volunteers and after school tutoring. Unfortunately, for so many years our students have been deprived of one critical tool for their success: A PLAYGROUND.
Smith Elementary is approximately over 100 years old and has a student population of 529 with grades ranging from PK- 5th grade. Our students are comprised of 10% Black, 87% Hispanic, .07% White, 72% At risk, and 97% Economically disadvantaged. Throughout its’ history, Smith has received a few renovations and cosmetic improvements. However, due to budgetary constraints, we have never been able to provide our students with an environment to play outdoors. Up to this Friday, teachers conducted students’ recess time on an asphalt located in the rear of the campus.
Smith Elementary serves students with limited financial means who are motivated and committed to creating success in school, and their life. Your gift of a playground will have significant impact on their ability to maintain student morale and their studies.
Thank you for partnering with our students. We will humbly work beside you this Saturday! And we can’t thank you enough for this miraculous gift.
Lianna Cano &The Parents and Staff at Smith Elementary