Pointe South students launch community service project

Photo by Jeylin White
Students at Pointe South Elementary work together to paint a butterfly on the school’s media center wall.

Photo by Jeylin White Students at Pointe South Elementary work together to paint a butterfly on the school’s media center wall.

Fifth-graders at Point South Elementary school started a new tradition on Monday, in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

They started a community service project that will be conducted, each year, at the school on King’s birthday, to keep alive the spirit, dream and legacy of the slain civil rights leader, whose determination, vision and hard work helped change his nation.

“The students wanted to do community service, and I thought this would be an awesome opportunity,” said Ta-Tanisha Copeland, head counselor at Point South Elementary School. “Because, [the] King holiday should be a day on, and not a day off.”

According to fifth-grader, Laneshia Allen, if it were not for King working hard in the community for change, it would not have been possible for her generation to receive equal opportunities today.

“He stood up for the rights of black people, and he helped clean up our communities,” said Allen, with a big a smile on her face. “Now, we can have [Caucasian] friends and [Mexican] friends.”

Copeland said, if King were alive today –– on his birthday –– she strongly believes he would be somewhere working for the community.

“[Our students] know that Martin Luther King worked hard,” Copeland said, “and they know the best way to honor him is to give back to their community, because that is what he would do.”

As their project, the youngsters chose to clean and update the school’s media center. Copeland said it was the perfect choice, considering the media center was in need of some major tiding up. “Our librarian does not have an assistant to help her clean, because of budget cuts,” Copeland said.

Scores of fifth-graders, and a few teachers, rolled up their sleeves, and dusted off books, cleaned windows, painted walls, updated the school’s bulletin boards, and vacuumed the floors.

Copeland said it was Allen, and a fellow classmate, who came up with the idea to do the project at the school. “Me and my friend were thinking of ideas of what we wanted to do before we got out of elementary school, so we came up with the idea,” said Allen.

Copeland said she took their idea under her wing, and contacted Hands On Atlanta to see if the volunteer community-service organization would be interested in overseeing the project at the school. The group, she added, was more than happy to oblige. Hands On Atlanta is an affiliate of the HandsOn Network, an association of 250 volunteer service organizations across 16 countries. Hands On Atlanta helps individuals, families, corporate and community groups strengthen Greater Atlanta through service at more than 400 non-profit organizations and schools, according to its web site.

Kelly Wright, project coordinator for the Hands On Atlanta, was present Monday to assist the fifth-graders at Pointe South. She said Hands On Atlanta donated the cleaning supplies, food and beverages.

“We came together to celebrate MLK Day, and live up to his legacy.” said Wright. “Martin Luther King was all about service, and he dedicated his life to that.” Wright said she was impressed with how the students mimicked King’s philosophy.

Pointe South Principal Marcus Jackson also joined in the effort, helping students haul trash to the dumpster, paint walls, dust off the library’s books and shelves.

“This is a great project,” said Jackson. “This has been a total collaborative effort [with the students, teachers] and the community.”

Jalen Alexander and Paris Mullins, both fifth-graders, who were covered in paint, agreed they could have used their day off from school to relax at home, but wanted, instead, to do something to honor King’s accomplishments. “Martin Luther King was a good man,” said Mullins. “If it wasn’t for him, we would not be able to go to school to get an education and learn.”

Alexander agreed and said he wanted to show his appreciation. “I really care about everything he has done for me,” the youngster said.

Copeland said the project will be an annual tradition at the school, but that fifth-grade students will have the opportunity to pick a section of the school to clean each year.

“I’m glad I can be the first to start this project for other fifth-graders, before I go to middle school,” Mullins said.