Volunteers in the Harder Elementary School garden. (Photo: Scott Chernis)
With perfect October weather and a well-organized plan to clean, paint and beautify, an enthusiastic crowd of Cal State East Bay volunteers came together Saturday to transform Hayward’s Harder Elementary School.
Students from Pioneer Heights, Associated Students, Inc., Pioneer Athletics and university clubs joined administrators, faculty, staff, elementary school teachers and community members at a day of service Oct. 6 in honor of the upcoming Investiture of President Leroy M. Morishita.
“Cal State East Bay enjoys strong relationships with our community, and one of the hallmarks of my presidency will be reinforcing our commitment to service learning across the curriculum and throughout the university,” Morishita said.
Located a few blocks down the hill from CSUEB’s Hayward Campus, Harder Elementary is one of the schools in the Hayward Promise Neighborhood, a partnership led by CSUEB and funded by a five-year grant from the US Department of Education.
According to Marguerite Hinrichs, director of CSUEB Student Life and Leadership Programs, the day drew 241 volunteers in two shifts; more than 180 students and almost 50 faculty and staff representatives, along with other community members and volunteers from the school and district.
Principal Hector Garcia welcomed the morning shift as organizers handed out bright red “Volunteer” t-shirts and divided the crowd into teams to tackle each project. The landscape crew headed out to the lawn to tackle a giant pile of “gorilla hair,” a soft redwood-based mulch that protects plant roots and preserves topsoil from erosion. Loading up wheelbarrows and plastic tarps, they ferried it to the playgrounds and gardens to cover sparse patches of dirt and bark.
Home Depot in Hayward provided the university with a 10 percent discount on the cost of tools and materials and Clark’s U-Save Rockery in Hayward donated the delivery fee for the gorilla hair mulch. All other materials and equipment were organized by CSUEB’s Facilities Development and Operations.
The paint crew taped off hopscotch squares, basketball courts and racing lanes along the weathered blacktop and filled the outlines with fresh white paint. Armed with dusters, rags and mops, the cleaning crew dispersed through the long hallways to clean up cobwebs and debris along the ceilings and corners as CSUEB’s custodial manager Alvaro De Sousa made sure they were well supplied with fresh towels, gloves and eye protection.
In the gardens, volunteers tended to plants and vegetable beds labeled in English and Spanish, put in new soil and seedlings and spread out the fluffy gorilla hair. Bob Andrews and Terry Leak from CSUEB’s Facilities department circulated between the crews to check on progress and reassign volunteers as projects wrapped up.
President Morishita, sporting his own red volunteer shirt, joined the crews in the garden and in the hallways. “I was excited to see the enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers, especially the students,” he said.
“It was fun working with some of the students planting radish seeds and other plants,” he continued. “The best thing was seeing all the smiles on the faces of the volunteers and the Harder and school district personnel.”
The Saturday event kicked off a week of service activities leading up to the Investiture Friday, Oct. 12. Provost James Houpis and Vice President of Planning, Enrollment Management, and Student Affairs Linda Dalton chaired the Investiture Day of Service sub-committee, which planned the week’s activities. Students are also doing roadside cleanup along Harder Road near the Hayward campus and working with the Hayward city library.
Stan Hébert, associate vice president of Student Affairs, served as the committee convener and helped coordinate the volunteer shifts. “Being in the Promise Neighborhood area made Harder a natural fit for this kind of event,” Hébert said. “This is not the only service event that the university is engaged in and this is definitely not the last time we will visit Harder or other members of the Hayward Unified School District.”
Just before noon, the morning shift took a well-deserved lunch break as Hébert and Morishita thanked the volunteers for all their hard work and introduced Principal Garcia, who gratefully accepted a gift of two new US flags and two new California flags to fly over the campus.
Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney congratulated the crowd on a very productive morning. Donald Evans, the superintendent of Hayward Unified School District, and Jesús Armas, the president of the Hayward school board also expressed their thanks to the volunteers.
By the afternoon shift, it was clear to Hébert and other organizers that it would be possible to add to the scope of work. “The energy was so high at the start of the day, the volunteer crew powered through a majority of the work in the morning shift alone,” Hébert said.
Afternoon volunteers joined crews with spray bottles and sponges to clean the entryways and doors of each classroom, and helped the landscape crew pick up the pace until the gorilla hair pile had shrunk to ground level.
Associate Professor Robert Phelps, director of the University Honors Program, worked through both shifts with 23 students from the program. Service learning is a requirement in the UHP, and students who participated will write reflective papers on their experience. Opportunities like this help many students gain perspective, he explained. "They are working at an institution that may not have had the same privileges and resources that their schools had when they were growing up. It's important to the learning experience for students to cross those boundaries."
After working in the gardens, cleaning hallways and hauling gorilla hair, Phelps and the students were excited to see the changes to the grounds. "They were saying they wished they could see the kids when they come in on Monday," he said.
“I absolutely had a blast,” said Ronn Patton, manager of university events, who led the paint crew, which included members of the ASI board of directors. He and the students had some interesting discussions while they wielded their rollers, he said. “I think it was a chance for the faculty and staff to really get to know the students, and for them to know us, in a different and good way.”
“It was a great day. I loved seeing the smile on [the principal’s] face, too,” said Terry Leak.
CSUEB thanks the members of the Investiture Day of Service sub-committee:
Additional recognition to:
The Facilities department also thanks