Bellflower community unites to clean up park

BELLFLOWER – More than 100 Bellflower Unified elementary and middle school students were joined by Bellflower Mayor Sonny R. Santa Ines, Bellflower Unified trustees Jerry Cleveland and Paul Helzer, Kiwanis Club members, teachers and parents to beautify Ruth Caruthers Park during a Jan. 30 community service project the students designed as a civic learning lesson. The project, which ran from 8 a.m. to noon, was the brainchild of Woodruff Elementary Assistant Principal Holly Hennessy and arose from classroom lessons at Woodruff and a workshop on civic learning at Bellflower Middle School.

“It was amazing,” Hennessy said. “Everyone, especially the kids, worked so hard to clean up Caruthers Park. In the end, it looked spectacular.”

About 60 of the volunteers were sixth-graders in Woodruff Elementary School’s civic engagement classes. They were joined by their teachers, about 30 students from Bellflower Middle School and their teachers, plus the mayor, board members, parents and Kiwanis Club members.

The team removed pine needles, leaves and trash from fitness areas, batting cages, playground equipment and a wading pool, scrubbed away graffiti, washed picnic tables, swept walkways, spread woodchips and created posters for park office windows at the 20-acre park.

Hennessy said she began designing the civics effort after Superintendent Dr. Brian Jacobs shared information with Bellflower elementary principals about the state Department of Education’s 2014-15 Civic Learning Award for Public Elementary and Middle Schools.

Hennessy turned for help to Woodruff sixth-grade teacher Carlos Jimenez and to Bellflower Middle School history teachers Todd Davenport and Alison Kawashima, who coordinate an existing Civic Learning Initiative. Mayor Santa Ines visited Woodruff to discuss the city’s history, strengths and attributes.

After learning about civic roles and responsibilities, the students voted to hold a cleanup day at Caruthers Park. The park has special meaning because Woodruff students celebrate there at the end of their sixth-grade year.

“You know how when you get an idea, it just snowballs?” Hennessy said. “That’s what happened in this project. One idea led to another, which led to another. The middle school kids helped take it to another level and the mayor raised it once again.”

Jacobs praised Hennessy and her team for jumping on the challenge.

“This project is a great example of the initiative and passion taken by our school leaders, classroom teachers and, especially, our amazing students,” Jacobs said. “The effort seamlessly combines effective classroom instruction with civic engagement that will benefit all of Bellflower.”

To learn more about the Civic Learning Award, visit



Published: Feb. 12, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 44