High school gets a campus makeover

DOWNEY – 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 600 college students who spent a recent Saturday taking part in the campus beautification of St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy, it was a skill some had to reacquaint themselves with.

On Feb. 22, hundreds of volunteers converged at the school for the annual Circle K District Large Scale Service Project (DLSSP), an annual event in the Kiwanis District of California, Nevada and Hawaii where Southern California schools with Circle K clubs come together for a community service project.

Freshman Anthony De Leon, from UC San Diego, joined 20 other students and new Cal State Fullerton Circle K president Jesus Pelayo in giving the parking blocks in front of the school a new coat of paint.

“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,” De Leon said, pointing to a strip of fresh paint sandwiched between parallel strips of blue painter’s tape.

Circle K clubs from all over Southern California gave up their Saturday to participate in the project, and some drove long distances. Participating Circle K clubs came from USC, UCLA, Fresno State, San Diego State, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.

Molly McMains, a teacher at St. Pius X-St. Matthias, said she was thrilled with the turnout.

“I think it means a lot to see volunteers, to see college students who are coming out and giving this much time,” she said.

Volunteers spent the entire Saturday working on various projects around campus. Fences were scraped, primed and repainted; graffiti was removed; and artists sketched murals and artwork on walls that students later filled in. Students also painted school buildings that needed a fresh coat of paint.

Lunch tables were scraped clean and painted in school colors, and an old priest’s quarters was renovated and painted for nicer curb appeal.

Volunteers also ventured out into the community, painting a parking curb in front of the school, and sanding and painting stop signs and old light posts.

“It helps not just us but the whole community if we’ve got so many hands here that can get it done,” said a groundskeeper at St. Pius X-St. Matthias. “Then we can mark off our list of things to do and we are able to take care of things at other places in our school that need improvement later.”

One of the items on the school’s to-do list was to get the campus garden ready for planting. Karina Gonzalez, president of Downey High’s KIWIN’s, joined Keep Downey Beautiful’s Carol Rowland, along with parents and teachers, in tending to the small beds, pulling weeds, assembling a green house, spreading mulch, and painting a garden mural.

Gonzalez was also given a $2,000 grant from Keep America Beautiful to start a sustainable community garden in the city of Downey.

Councilman Roger Brossmer worked alongside volunteers digging out weeds from tree wells. He was with his two young sons.

Another project supporter was Councilman Alex Saab.

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

Donations came from the Downey Kiwanis Foundation; Kiwanis clubs of Downey, Fullerton and Div. 30; CalMet; Coca-Cola; Mayor Fernando Vasquez; Councilman Mario Guerra; Councilman Alex Saab; Steve Perez of Downey’s Green Task Force; Prime Waste Management; Joe’s Sweeping Inc. and Keep America Beautiful.

Lunch was provided by the Kiwanis Club of Downey, and the Downey Rose Float Association provided volunteers that grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for the volunteer lunch.

Sherwin-Williams and Hope Depot donated supplies and personnel to provide expertise. Professional photographer John Zander donated his time to take before-and-after shots of the campus.

Although much was accomplished in one day, Kiwanis members and students spent three weekends at the school, putting the finishing touches on the makeover.

“This is what Downey is all about – it’s about good people coming together and taking pride in their community,” said DUSD teacher Alex Gaytan, who headed up the project. “Donating their time, money and labor without expecting anything in return...just the satisfaction of know there are still Downey citizens who care about preserving Downey and making it a better place to live.”



Published: April 3, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 51