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Hundreds of NEA volunteers transform Balboa Elementary School in annual 'Outreach to Teach'

Educators put down their pencils and pick up shovels for a good cause


WASHINGTON - June 27, 2009 -

More than 300 college students, teachers, retired educators, higher education faculty and education support professionals picked up shovels and dug in to give a needy, local school a much- needed facelift today.

The National Education Association’s “Outreach to Teach” descended on Balboa Elementary School in San Diego, Calif., where NEA members grabbed hammers, shovels, brushes and mops to repair, landscape, paint, clean and redecorate the school. Students from as far away as Hawaii participated.

The award winning “Outreach to Teach” is celebrating its 14th year of community service. Each year, a high-need public school located in the host city of the NEA Annual Meeting is selected to receive a free makeover—thanks to hundreds of NEA volunteers.

“Working to create great public schools for every student sometimes means we must roll up our sleeves and do some heavy lifting,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Providing NEA volunteers with an opportunity to service a school in need goes a long way in improving a student’s learning environment. Poor physical conditions, from broken windows to leaking roofs, send strong signals that children aren’t worth it and that education is a dead end. Our goal is to create an environment that students feel good about so they can learn with the least amount of distractions—and we accomplished that goal today.”

Balboa Elementary School is the most southwestern school in the San Diego Unified School District and serves a diverse community of English Language Learners, including students from Russia, Sudan, the Congo, and the Philippines. The school is home to approximately 700 students, preschool through sixth grade, and all students receive free breakfast and lunch daily. This is a true neighborhood school and offers various opportunities for community involvement such as “Coffee with the Principal” and “Family Friday.” The student body is comprised of 91 percent Latino and 4.3 percent African American.

Major renovation projects included the teachers’ lounge and school library.

To provide peace of mind during the day for busy teachers and staff, a very special redesign of the teachers’ lounge was completed. This room was completely refurbished. The lounge was painted, cleaned and organized; new shelves and decorated bulletin boards gave the room a fresh, new look; and new furniture was brought in to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Volunteers also focused their efforts on the school library. In addition to updating the library with fresh paint, new books, reference materials, tables and chairs, rugs and new shelves were provided by NEA’s corporate sponsor, Target, as part of its Target School Library Makeover initiative, which provides year-round opportunities for Target team members to get involved with their local schools. Target also provided 30 team member volunteers for the day’s event.

“Cuts in education send a clear message to all students. NEA’s ‘Outreach to Teach’ program has countered that message by investing in our classrooms,” said Fabiola Bagula, Balboa’s principal. “Words just can’t express our gratitude from the students, the staff and the parents!”

Bagula has been a San Diego Unified School District employee for over a decade. She has been the principal since December 2007.

“Outreach to Teach” began in 1996 as a beautification project to give back to schools.  Past sites have included Atlanta, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Since its inception, participation has increased by more than 1,000 percent.

“I love ‘Outreach to Teach,’” said Jermaine Coleman, NEA Student Program chair. “Community outreach is what motivates our generation and the members of the NEA Student Program. I’m very proud to be a part of it once again.”

“The work by our student and retired members truly makes a difference in not just the lives of students, but teachers as well,” said Barbara Matteson, NEA-Retired president. “Quality working conditions for teachers often translates into academic achievement for students. We are proud to be a part of this program.”

Lending both hands to make the teachers’ lounge project possible was Evette Rios, craft and design expert. As a contributor to the Rachael Ray Show, she’s known for fabulous hands-on advice, innovative crafts, and dramatic room revisions—wowing Rachael and the audience with budget-friendly projects that look like a million bucks.

Other generous donations were made by The Home Depot, IKEA, The Container Store, JCPenney, Moen, Eight O’Clock Coffee, San Diego Public Schools, and NEA Member Benefits.

Now in its 14th year, “Outreach to Teach” is an annual event that has served as an inspiration for meaningful volunteerism—just like President Barack Obama’s recent call to service. President Obama’s “United We Serve” initiative, launched on June 22, is intended to help make volunteerism and community service a part of the daily lives of all Americans in order to help build a new foundation, one community at a time. “Outreach to Teach” has embraced this challenge and answered the call.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Brenda Alvarez
(202) 262-5377, balvarez@nea.org