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Hundreds of NEA volunteers transform Belle Chasse High School in annual ‘Outreach to Teach’

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

NEW ORLEANS - June 27, 2010 -

More than 400 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 Belle Chasse High School in Belle Chasse, La., 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 15th 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.

“NEA’s commitment to its host city goes beyond supporting the local economy. This year we are bringing our loving attention to the needs of Belle Chasse High School,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “NEA volunteers are helping to remove the stains and repair the damages caused by housing the community and hundreds of additional students whose schools were destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is an honor to be here to help create a more positive learning environment for students and staff at this historic school."

Belle Chasse High School, “Home of the Fighting Cardinals,” was founded in 1928. The original school was a single brick building. As the community began to grow, a wooden building was placed adjacent to the school. In 1958, the present facility was opened and the old brick building remodeled.

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

To provide a relaxing environment during the day for busy teachers and support staff, a very special redesign of two teachers’ lounges were completed. These rooms were completely refurbished. The lounges were painted, cleaned and organized. And, decorated bulletin boards gave the rooms a fresh, new look. New furniture was brought in to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Volunteers also focused their efforts on the school library. The library was updated with fresh paint, tables and chairs, and new rugs. The library now houses a small lounge section, inviting students to sit down with a good book.

Helping make these redesign projects possible were two hometown-based companies—HMS Architects, a recognized leader in providing creative design; and Sizeler, Thompson, Brown Architects, one of Louisiana’s oldest and largest architectural firms. HMS Architects lent its expertise in the redesign of the teachers’ lounges while Sizeler, Thompson, Brown Architects revamped the school library.

Landscaping was provided by Louisiana-based Green Parrot Nursery and Garden Center. The garden center, provided sod, rubber mulch and stadium seating for the outside courtyard. Ten citrus trees were also donated to the school.

“Many of our students think the world forgot about them in 2005. NEA’s ‘Outreach to Teach’ program has countered that message by investing in our school,” said Belle Chasse High School Principal Leeland Lee. “Words cannot express our gratitude from the students, the staff and the parents!”

“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.

“‘Outreach to Teach’ is an amazing program that is the quintessential to our generation—community outreach,” said NEA Student Program Chair Jermaine Coleman. “It’s not enough for us to only be in the classrooms. We also want to be a part of the community. I’m very proud to be a part of it once again.”

“The work by our student and retired members has served as an inspiration for meaningful volunteerism,” NEA-Retired President Barbara Matteson. “The work we have done here today will impact the lives of students for years to come. We are proud to be a part of this program.”

Other generous donations were made by the following contributors: 3Form, AOS, Arnold Associates, CAI, Cameron Jones, Crystal, Curtis Stout Lighting, Designtex, DKI, E. Byrd and Associates, Inc., Glen Jones, Assoc., Global Furniture, Helm Paint, InterfaceFlor Carpet, Metal Graphics, NEA-Rhode Island, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Paul Bencel Citrus Nursery, and Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

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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,