Sister services work together to spruce up D.C. school

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Russell
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
Music and laughter resonated through the entrance way of C.W. Harris Elementary School as 75 dutiful service members volunteered to give the school a makeover, Feb. 4.

Tech. Sgt. Chris Pearson, Air Force District of Washington dental assistant, headed up the event that brought service members from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Joint Base Andrews, Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Naval Medical Clinic in Bethesda, Md., together to upgrade the timeworn D.C. school.

"The school was built in 1964 and has not been renovated in 20 years," said Tiffany Clemmons, C.W. Harris Elementary School principal. "I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from someone from the Air Force, they took the initiative to call us to volunteer their services."

The chore list was extensive, and included painting all of the doors and hallways, power washing the exterior walls, removing graffiti and reorganizing classrooms. The turnout for the event was exceptional. Several Airmen, over a dozen Marines and a couple of Soldiers showed up ready to complete the tasks at hand.

"Their efforts are truly appreciated because we don't have a whole lot of money or the manpower to keep things up to par," said Clemmons. "Our head custodian and his two-person crew would be overwhelmed with all of this work."

Exercising the Air Force core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do, Staff Sgt. Brittinie Alvarez, a member of the newly-formed Andrews 11th Wing Commanders Action Group, painted one of the school's main hallways with detailed precision.

"Before, the hallway was two different shades of yellow and looked ugly," said Alvarez. "Now it looks a lot brighter. Beautifying the school was not a superficial effort."

According to many studies, psychologists correlate the quality of a child's environment with their ability to learn. The students of C.W. Harris returned to school Feb. 7 to a cleaner, brighter learning environment.

"The children love to come back to new improvements," said Clemmons. "They were amazed to see the mural and inspirational quotes on the walls after the last annual Hands-on-D.C. Day, a volunteer based clean-up effort."

During the event, Tech Sgt. Andrea Anderson, 79th Medical Wing historian, made the event a family affair. Her husband, Kelly, and their two school-age daughters, Rebekah and Bridget contributed to the efforts.

"We try to bring the girls out whenever there is a volunteer opportunity; especially at an elementary school in the local community," said Anderson. "Living on a military base, they don't see that outside of those gates there is a big need. That's what we are here for, to serve our community."

Through the joint effort of these capitol region service members, their families and head custodian William Israel, all of the day's tasks were accomplished.

"I think it's awesome that military members who risk life and limb fighting for our country, also volunteer their time to help keep the school looking good," said Israel.