Indiana State University Newsroom

Students volunteer to renovate Greentown school

April 13, 2011

Hallways echoed with voices and the sound of rustling paper while the sharp, heady scent of paint and paint thinner filled the air at Eastern Junior/Senior High School in Greentown.

On that Saturday morning (April 9), more than 200 members of the Indiana Student Education Association from universities and colleges across Indiana, including 20 from Indiana State University, converged on the school near Kokomo to spend one day renovating it. The program called Outreach to Teach, is now in its seventh year.

College students painted hallways above lockers, refinished art tables, numbered exits and replaced bathroom signs. Students also painted a mural in the computer room and cabinets in the art room.

Heather Keith, Indiana State junior elementary education major from Spencer who serves as the ISEA state president, painted on the mural lettering that urges students to "Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

"It's important to give back to your profession," she said as she stood clasping a green plastic cup holding black paint. "People have given me so much and I can give back to them."

Working to improve the environment impacts those working and studying in it, she said.

"It builds up confidence for teachers in their teaching and students in the schools," she said. "It makes it a better place."

Lisa Smith, Eastern principal who earned an education specialist degree from ISU in 2010, echoed Keith's sentiments.

"It will impact everybody," she said of the work being done around her. "Students will have a better respect for the school environment."

Jennifer Perez, president of ISU's ISEA chapter and outgoing secretary for the state ISEA, said she gets a satisfaction from helping others in a situation she knows well.

"I'm from a poor school," said the senior elementary education major from Holbrook. "Students seeing this, that people still care about schools, has a huge impact."

Perez spent her day in the art room cleaning cabinets, priming them and painting them a vibrant green. While she painted alongside fellow ISU student Khrista Beliles, the remainder of the ISU student group worked scattered throughout the school.

"This is the biggest group we've had ever from ISU," Perez said. "This is just a huge inspiration to come together. With everything going on with education and the politics, this just shows we're all united and we can come together to help others. Plus it's fun."

Beliles, a senior elementary education major from Spencer, looked around the art room at the shining refinished tables and changed room.

"They'll know somebody out there cares," she said.

Teresa Meredith, vice president of the Indiana State Teacher's Association and program coordinator for Outreach to Teach, said the yearly school makeover has grown from a small project to the one this year that impacts an entire school. She praised ISU's efforts in fundraising and volunteering for the project.

"Indiana State has one of the most active student chapters in the state," she said. "They always send a strong delegation. They're just great."

Freshman Megan Colvin, elementary education major from Dubois, has spent her first year at ISU finding that out. She won a free ISEA membership during the fall semester and began attending meetings.

"I heard from Heather (Keith) and other members that they always had a lot of fun and made a huge impact on the school," she said about the Outreach to Teach program.

Colvin woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready to leave at 5 a.m. with four other ISU students for the three-hour drive from Terre Haute to Greentown. During a break from painting a comet in the mural, she described her first Outreach to Teach as a good experience.

"It's been a lot of fun painting this mural," she said. "I think it looks pretty good."

An ISU alumna also volunteered for the day. Courtney Cooper, and 2009 graduate who now teaches at Nativity Catholic School in Indianapolis, had volunteered for the national ISEA school renovations in Washington D.C., San Diego and New Orleans.

"It's community. It's fellowship. It's fulfilling," she said of the Outreach program. "ISU always brings a big crowd. We love volunteering, especially to do Outreach."

Cooper also volunteered for Outreach this year in honor of ISU graduate J.D. Miller, who died in 2009after a battle with cancer. Miller served as state president for ISEA.

"J.D. Miller loved Outreach," she said. "He's one of the reasons I'm here. I'm living out a legacy."

Courtney Cooper, 2009 ISU graduate, greets Jennifer Perez, ISU senior elementary education major, during Outreach to Teach. ISU Photo/Jennifer Sicking
Meagan Colvin paints the comet part of mural at Eastern Junior/Senior High in Greentown. ISU Photo/Jennifer Sicking
Heather Keith paints on the lettering for the mural in Eastern Junior/Senior High's computer room. ISU Photo/Jennifer Sicking
Jennifer Perez and Khrista Beliles paint cabinets in the art room of Eastern Junior/Senior High School. ISU Photo/Jennifer Sicking

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or