Beautifying Sandy Ridge Elementary

WAXHAW – For 9-year-old Madison Warren, giving up a Saturday morning to help make her school “beautiful” wasn’t a chore – it was fun.

Students and staff help clean up around the school, while Boy Scouts brought mulch.

The fourth-grader was one of nearly 200 volunteers who came out to Sandy Ridge Elementary School on Oct. 27 for the school’s second annual Fall Beautification Day.

“I really want to help out because I like my school and I want it to be beautiful,” Madison said. “I had fun doing it.”

For the second year in a row, students, parents and families have donated their time on an autumn Saturday to help perform tasks to make the area outside of the school more attractive and appealing.

Valerie Secker, president of the school’s parent-teacher organization, used to organize a similar event at a school in Maryland. Prior to last year, Sandy Ridge’s fall beautification event was simply a day when a group of Boy Scouts came out to the campus to lay mulch. Secker saw an opportunity to expand the event to the entire school and jumped on it.

“I feel like it’s a very important thing for kids to know how to take care of what we have and maintain it,” Secker said.

Fall Beautification Day commenced at about 9:30 a.m. with doughnuts and refreshments. Students and their families planted bulbs around the school, filled pots with winter annuals like pansies and laid 356 bales of pine straw. The PTO organized the event and paid for the materials used.

“It’s mostly just about doing all the ground work that (Union County Public Schools) doesn’t have the funds to do,” Secker said.

One of the goals of Fall Beautification Day is to reach areas of the school that often go overlooked or aren’t cared for, such as the area behind the school, near the trailers. Volunteers were responsible for cleaning up the courtyard and the greenhouse and clearing dead plants and shrubberies. And as in seasons past, Cub Scout volunteers showed up to lay all of the mulch.

“It just takes a small army; it’s a big campus, 20-something acres, and there are a lot of trees and a lot of (areas) that need help,” Secker said.

Secker said Fall Beautification Day isn’t just an opportunity to get a bunch of work done; it’s also a chance for students and their families to learn new things.

“We invite all the school’s families to come and mark it as a family event,” she said. “We try to teach the kids as we’re working. We tell them about worms, how to plant a bulb properly. We do cute stuff with the kids, and they really like to fill the pots in front of school.”

Like last year, Secker said she’s pleased with the volunteer turnout and the effort the students and their families put into the project.

“I guess what makes me happy about it is what used to happen was the Boy Scouts laid the mulch and that was it, and now the whole school gets together and does this,” she said. “There’s nobody to do this stuff; it has to be volunteers. It’s no joke hauling all that stuff around, but people work hard … I feel like they enjoy it but they also learn something from it.”

Madison, who helped spread pine needles and plant flowers and bushes in front of the school, hopes more students will get involved next year and become part of the experience.

“I would tell them that I helped the school out and that they should do it, too, to help the school become beautiful,” she said. “It makes you feel good.”

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