More than 150 freshmen and transfer students from UCLA descended this week on Strathern Elementary School, applying fresh paint and infusing college-going spirit, during the university’s eighth annual Volunteer Day.
“This is all about the kids,” said Strathern Principal Cynthia Diaz. “We are so grateful for the help from UCLA to promote college awareness and helping to make our school look as good on the outside as what’s happening in our classrooms.”
Strathern and dozens of other sites – including food banks, parks, shelters and veterans’ facilities – were tapped for community service projects by the incoming Bruins. They arrived bright and early at Strathern and quickly went to work, creating murals on classroom walls and handball courts, decorating corridor posts as pencils and crayons, and re-painting lines on basketball courts and in the kindergarten play yard.
“We are all just so excited to participate,” said Cynthia Scott, regional director of development at UCLA and the lead volunteer for the site. “We work every day to raise funds for the students of UCLA, and today we are working to raise good will in the communities around us.”
In addition to the campus beautification work, UCLA students also visited fourth and fifth grade classrooms where they talked to the Strathern students about what it’s like to get ready to go to college and took time to answer some of their questions.
“I was just amazed at the kinds of questions they were asking us,” said transfer student Katie Malone. “When I was in fifth grade, I don’t even remember thinking about college at all. And these 10-year-olds are asking things like the difference between a two-year and four-year college and how to get ready for the application process.”
Also lending a hand was local graphic artist and muralist Philip Lumbang, who took the day off from his day job to volunteer at the event.
“It’s just amazing to get the kids’ reactions,” he said. “Kids come up to you and say ‘wow, look at that!’ and they say ‘thank you!’ And, it just a really cool experience.”
Members of the community who came to the event to show their support included L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, Lorraine Diaz from the Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council, Kenny La Salle representing U.S. Congressman Tony Cárdenas and David Gonzalez representing Los Angeles School Board Member Mónica Ratliff.
“We are pleased that after today, parents driving by will be able to see what a bright and kid-centered learning environment we provide here at Strathern,” Diaz said. “But, just as importantly, what we’re doing today is promoting community engagement and giving our young students the chance to interact with actual university students, which gets them energized about someday going to college themselves. And, that is tremendously valuable.”