Since its inception 16 years ago, Outreach to Teach, sponsored by the National Education Association Student Program, has become an annual celebration that brings educators together to give back to local communities. The first Outreach to Teach was started in Atlanta in June 1996 with 30 student volunteers who were attending the NEA Student Leadership Conference. This year, nearly 400 educators from across the country met at Thomasville Elementary and picked up shovels, hammers, mops and paintbrushes to give Thomasville a school makeover.
“Ensuring every child’s basic right to a great public school starts with providing children with an environment that uplifts them,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “”We get such strong support for this annual service project because our members understand the importance of students and school employees learning and working in safe, healthy, and positive environments. Investments like this are important in making sure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”
Thomasville Heights Elementary Principal Cynthia Jewell is delighted that the school was selected for the Outreach to Teach makeover. “Our students and staff are excited to be getting this kind of affirmation and support,” she says, “and it is another way to show parents that we really do have a new Thomasville.”
Outreach to Teach began in 1996 as a beautification project to give back to the schools. Past efforts have included schools in Philadelphia, Orlando, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas, Compton, and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Since the service project began, the number of volunteers has grown exponentially.
“It feels so good to help a school is such a concrete way,” said David Tjaden, Chairman of the NEA Student Program. “At the end of the day, we have visible proof of our efforts. We know our time was well spent because we really do believe that every student has a right to attend a public school that is clean, safe, inviting, and up-to-date.”