Time, love keep school 'lovely' Parents honored for volunteering at elementary.


The parents call it "the lovely Lexington Terrace Elementary School," and they mean it.

Parents have decorated the school's halls with plants, posters and pictures and they make sure the building stays clean. Some of the parents sacrifice time from regular jobs to work at the school and others are involved full time.

"Our school is lovely. It's a warm and welcoming place," said Barbara McKinney, 38, who has lived in the Lexington Terrace development for 32 years. "We have some very faithful volunteers who are here every day."

City and school officials took time yesterday to recognize 71 of the school's behind-the-scenes volunteers at the third annual "Parent Appreciation Ceremony," held at the College of Notre Dame.

The volunteers, mostly parents from the city's Lexington Terrace/Poe Homes project, received mayoral citations and certificates from the Department of Education for their work at the elementary school next to their development.

Some of the parents act as hall monitors, classroom or library aides, fund-raisers, cafeteria assistants and student escorts. Others coordinate educational and recreational programs and provide after-school tutoring.

Although her son 12-year-old son, Gregory, recently graduated from Lexington Terrace and now attends Francis Scott Key Middle School, McKinney still donates time to other children. Having grown up in the neighborhood, she said, she's dedicated to enhancing the students' educational experience.

On Christmas and Easter, youngsters see McKinney parade around the school dressed in Santa Claus and Easter Bunny outfits. In December, she and other parents raise money to buy kids Christmas stockings, and in April they make more than 500 Easter baskets.

McKinney also shows students films, supervises a recreational center next to the school and runs a "Say No to Drugs" club.

Most of the parents at the high-rise development are single mothers, McKinney said. But she said she now sees some fathers taking a greater interest in their kids' education and being more responsive to children's needs.

McKinney's fiance, Larry Stokes, 35, was one of three male volunteers given a citation for his service at the elementary school.

"I wanted to make kids take a positive attitude no matter what they do," Stokes, a computer specialist, said. "I grew up in a low-income area, and I got out of it by being positive."

For three years Stokes has worked part time at the school, helping with security, student discipline and even building maintenance. He has also coached basketball at the recreation center.

"I had support from my parents," he said. "I want the kids to get a good education, because without that you can't get anywhere."

Jessie Douglas, a former assistant superintendent of schools, praised the parents' efforts to improve their youngsters' education. She said the parents' concern helps build the children's self-esteem, which in turn promotes enthusiasm for learning.

Samuel Little, assistant director of the Housing Development's Family Support Services, said the program at the Lexington Terrace Elementary School is a model for schools that lack parental involvement.

"Since kids spend a majority of time in schools, where they face a lot of peer pressure, initiative must be taken there by the parents first," Little said.

Although the classroom climate has improved as a result of parental involvement at the school, Principal Wyatt Coger said only continued support from parents and the entire community can keep the Lexington Terrace Elementary School "lovely" in all aspects.

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