773 LSU volunteers converge to help spruce up EBR schools

Painting in between the lines is a skill most people learn at a young age, then let fall by the wayside.

For the more than 770 LSU students who spent Saturday taking part in the Volunteer LSU Community Bound Program, it was a skill some had to reacquaint themselves with.

Freshman Jeffreal Brown, from New Orleans, joined nine other students and new University President F. King Alexander in giving the lines in the parking lot at the Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet School, also called FLAIM, on Mayflower Street a touch-up.

“They said we were going to be painting, but I thought we would be painting walls or a mural or something. I didn’t know we were going to paint this,” she said, pointing to the strip of fresh paint sandwiched between parallel strips of blue painter’s tape. “And I’m still not in the lines, I can never be in the lines.”

Alexander said he was thrilled with Saturday’s turnout.

“I think it means a lot to see volunteers, to see college students who are coming out and giving this much time,” he said in the magnet school’s parking lot.

The students gave up their Saturday, the final one before classes begin and, more important to some, before football season begins, to help East Baton Rouge schools with tasks that need completing, but are low on the to-do list.

Saturday’s event is the largest annual event on the Community Bound calendar, said Morgan Matchett, Volunteer LSU’s student director.

“It is primarily for first-year students to get involved in the community,” Matchett said.

Community Bound is coordinated by Volunteer LSU, which is a part of LSU Campus Life.

The event is much larger now than it was when it started 11 years ago. The turnout for that first year was 40 students, Matchett said.

Last year, 661 students volunteered at nine schools and this year, 773 students, including 514 freshmen, volunteered at 20 schools, Matchett said.

City Year Baton Rouge and Volunteers in Public Schools also helped out Saturday, in some cases building reading nooks in classrooms.

Margo Jolet, associate director of LSU Campus Life, said school officials encourage first-year students to take part in the event.

The students gathered in the LSU Student Union Theatre at 8:30 a.m. to hear remarks by Alexander and East Baton Rouge Deputy Superintendent of Schools Michael Haggen before climbing into their buses.

Jolet said the students were excited despite the early morning start and they chanted the names of the schools to which they were assigned while waiting in the union theatre.

About 20 students spent Saturday at FLAIM either touching up the parking lot, pulling weeds, working in the garden or performing general upkeep that officials and Aramark Inc., the company providing cleaning services for East Baton Rouge schools, haven’t been able to get to.

“If we’ve got hands here that can get it done, then we can mark off our list and they (Aramark) are able to take care of things at other places,” FLAIM Principal Cheryl Miller said. “So it helps not just us, but the whole district.”

The main item on Miller’s to-do list was to get the school’s garden ready to plant in a few weeks. Parents, teachers and FLAIM students joined the LSU students in tending to the small beds, pulling weeds and spreading mulch.

School Board member and LSU professor Craig Freeman, who worked alongside the students in the garden, said what excited him about getting the students out in the community is the impact it could have on younger students who were also out Saturday.

“We always talk about the power of community, but for our kids to see our students at LSU rolling up their sleeves and giving back is just a fantastic thing,” he said.

At Highland Elementary School, students painted the parking lot, kindergarten jungle gyms and green poles outside, while others cleaned windows inside.

Quindell Williams, a junior at LSU from Donaldsonville, was one of about 10 students who repainted the green poles under the covered walkway, while Alexander joined another 10 students repainting the red, yellow, pink and blue jungle gyms used by the kindergarten students.

Williams said he participated in the program two years ago as a freshman and came back this year to help serve as a mentor to the current crop of freshmen.

“I figured this would be a good way to help the freshmen out, teach them things, because I had good team leaders when I did it my freshman year and they taught me a lot,” he said as he donned paint-stained latex gloves.

He said he hoped to talk to some of the freshmen about events on campus and good groups that they could join.

Highland Elementary School Principal Kaye Van Sickle and Adminstrative Dean Jamie Carruth were on hand to supervise and thank the students for their work.

Van Sickle said if not for the students, the jungle gyms would have probably gone unpainted for a few years.

“It’s low on the totem pole of things of things we want to do, so this was great,” she said.