Students from the P. 12 Lewis & Clark School and merchants in Westchester Square teamed up to make an eyesore sparkle.
The rear portion of the Square’s ABC Super Store, on Benson Street, has long been a problem spot for graffiti and overgrown grass and weeds.
On Thursday, August 11 the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square sponsored a cleanup of a graffiti splattered wall by providing paint, brushes, tools and other supplies to a group of students from a Summer Youth Employment Program based out of P. 12, across the street from the site.
“This is the second year we are working with the Summer Youth Employment program via the Department of Youth and Community Development,” said AMBPWS program coordinator Joe Regina. “They are doing both residential and commercial cleanups. The young people take ownership of their community, and it helps them when they enter the workforce.”
The cleanup, under the supervision of teacher Clinton Frazier, tops off a seven week program that had the young people perform similar work throughout Westchester Square, Zerega, and Castle Hill communities, Frazier said.
“I want these students to go into their own communities and clean up,” Frazier said. “That’s half the battle. I also want them to learn a strong work ethic, and this certainly helps them in that regard.”
The program also helps the students realize project competition, and build relationships between the school and surrounding community, said P. 12 principal Kuvana Jones.
“These students have various challenges and are classified in the most restrictive setting in special education,” Jones said. “But that doesn’t mean that they will not learn to work with their peers, adults, and the general public as a whole.”
The students are learning about setting goals and objectives, all the while coming to understand that doing work well has its rewards, just as doing it poorly has consequences, said AMBPWS president Greg Perry.
“You have this situation where the merchants association and the school are working together to integrate their services,” Perry said. “The work gives the students some goals and objectives, and they can see the end result.”
The program offers “life-crafting” skills, Perry said.
“It is a good way for the merchants to network with the school, and to change the image of the school from what it was in the past,” Perry stated. “Dr. Jones has made a concerted effort to improve the school’s image.”
Aside from the painting, the students also removed weeds from around the sidewalk, providing much-needed relief in an area that becomes prone to dumping and mosquitos, said next door resident Violeta Rodriguez.
“This is really positive because at night people throw garbage in the tall grass,” Rodriguez said. “I often have to walk into the street because the weeds become too tall. It is really good to see that the students from the school remove the grass, and the painting over the graffiti is also good.”