Area residents make a difference

Published 12:13 am Sunday, October 24, 2010

NATCHEZ — Kneeling over a flowerbed, nine elementary students carefully dug holes and placed pansies under a sign on U.S. 61, which read “We are a successful school.”

The McLaurin Elementary school sign was a lucky recipient of a Make a Difference Day project. Students, parents and teachers spent Saturday morning beautifying a few areas around school.

Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the national day of community service day, and Americorps Junior Citizen Corps members at McLaurin and Morgantown Elementary enjoyed pitching in to beautify their schools over the weekend.

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In addition to the previously shabby-looking flowerbed, the parent center as McLaurin got some sprucing, too.

The students who ditched cartoons to help out at school belonged to the Americorps Junior Citizen Corps or Girl Scouts.

But the children who attended the day of volunteering had little to complain about.

In fact, they enjoyed hanging in the hallways without worrying about going to class, and getting permission to get messy was an easy way to help out others.

While some students planted outside, others helped paint the bookshelves in the parent center.

All week, students have been painting the 30-year-old, wooden furniture dark blue to prepare for Saturday’s finale. Saturday, the children dipped their hands in paint and left their individual mark on the furniture to give the parent center some extra charm.

The children also watched in awe as art teacher Mary Beth Wentworth stood on a ladder to paint over a picture she stenciled on the wall, which was captioned with McLaurin’s slogan, “In unity there is strength.”

“She’s really good,” student Malana Tennessee said as she starred up at Wentworth.

Trevion Skipper said he looks forward to parents and other students checking out the improvements made during Make a Difference Day.

“People that come to the school might say, ‘That’s a good ole painting right there,’” Skipper said.

At Morgantown, fifth and sixth grade Americorps junior members polished up sidewalk paw prints that guide students to class with a fresh coat of paint.

The day of volunteering was also a day of fun for Morgantown Elementary School students after a cookout provided them with barbecue chicken and goodies, before they read to senior citizens from Glenburney Nursing Home in the gym.

Fifth-grade student Anferee Thomas said he had a good time painting over the paw print stencils outside, and liked the perk of knowing he make a difference, too.

“I want to the school to look better,” Thomas said.

Latonya Jefferson, a McLaurin Americorps reading tutor, said Make a Difference Day is a good way to teach children how rewarding volunteering can be without expecting anything in return but the satisfaction of a job well done.

Even small details, such as fresh paint and flowers, can give students pride in their school and encourage higher achievement, Jefferson said.

A poster decorated by a student for the occasion hanging on the wall outside the gym at Morgantown demonstrated, however, what volunteering is all about in the long run.

“Make life better,” the poster said.