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Booker T. Washington gets makeover with 1,400 volunteers

caines | 4/19/2012, 5 a.m.

Booker T. Washington Senior High has had a great year moving from being an F school to a now more respectable B grade. The schools sports teams, while unable to boast as being league champions, have represented their school well. And with their new principal, William Aristide at the helm, students are finding more reasons to be proud of their accomplishments; their self-esteem has reached new heights. But theres nothing better than a makeover to help you feel good about your surroundings. With that in mind, students came out in force last Saturday, along with close to 1,400 volunteers from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in a joint effort to transform the entire school, located in the Overtown community. The work efforts began early in the morning and included hand painting and landscaping the grounds of the school that has been a fixture in the Overtown community since 1926 when it first opened its doors to the Black residents of then Dade County. It is part of an initiative that Aristide hopes will positively impact the lives of his students for years to come. "To see over 1,500 people, including volunteers, counselors, administrators and even parents, out here working to make a difference in the lives of children is truly amazing," Aristide said. When students see a new building and beautiful plants it makes a difference in terms of how they see themselves; when we look like an A school, then we will begin to carry ourselves like an A school.

Teamwork is the key to success

The woman behind the Saturday cleanup drive was Dr. Yelena Revere-Stewart, Smaller Learning Community coordinator at Booker T. who was determined to make the event happen. "We have had a partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Royal Caribbean for the past three years that turned into a friendship where they collaborate on event like this one, called GIVE every year, she said. This makeover is going to help us and the kids; it's now going to look like a college campus just like your schools down south and all of your schools that have a lot of money. We may not have a lot of money but were rich in history." Now in its 15th year, GIVE [Get Involved Volunteer Everywhere] Day, brings Caribbeans employees together alongside families, friends, vendors and business partners to assist non-profit organizations and improve the quality of life in the local communities. "Giving back is the most favorite part of my job, it's a great feeling to connect with the members of the community," said Helen L. OConnell, community relations manager. The makeover with the paint will reduce the electric bill and with the light colors we are using it will reduce the retention to heat. And we are using less grass to help with maintenance." Even parents were excited and proud to be part of the change and the transformation that occurred last Saturday. "This is such a great cause; I took the day off from work just to come here and volunteer," said Sandra Ally. "My son attends [Booker T.] and I want him to be proud of his school; it was just right that I render my services. "I am overwhelmed with joy, said Roberta Daniels, president of the Alumni Association who covered the school grounds thanking everyone. "Booker T. has a great history it's the second-oldest school in Dade and the oldest high school for people of color; this is a great transformation for a place of learning. By Eric IkpeMiami Times writerericikpe@gmail.com