Students Watch Volunteers Transform Local School

DORCHESTER, Mass. - Zavien Taste, a fourth-grader at the John Marshall Elementary school, stood in awe Friday afternoon as he viewed his school’s newly refurbished basketball court.

“It looks like a brand new court,” said Taste. “I can’t wait to play a game on it.”

Taste, along with a few of his friends, live close to the school and therefore spend their days in the classroom and late afternoons playing on the school grounds.

There are hundreds more like Taste and his friends - 750 to be exact - who attend John Marshall Elementary School and use the outdoor space for recreation. However, the area was in need of a major makeover. On Friday, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care teamed with the Boston Celtics, City Year and Cradles to Crayons to transform the school's exterior to give the students an attractive, up-to-date place to play. Additionally, every student in the school received a backpack filled with essential school supplies.

HPHC Volunteers

Staff from Havard Pilgrim Health Care finished up a map of the US in the playground at the John Marshall Elementary School.
Peter Stringer/Boston Celtics

A remarkable 160 volunteers arrived Friday morning to offer their help. The day began with an opening ceremony in front of the students. Representatives from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, City Year and Cradles to Crayons spoke to the crowd along with Boston Celtics president Rich Gotham.

“I want to thank Harvard Pilgrim for hosting the wonderful day of service,” remarked Gotham. “To have 160 volunteers here today is amazing and shows the importance of community. We hope when we’re finished today, you all have even more pride in your school and education.”

Following the encouraging words from the guest speakers, volunteers assisted students with their backpack designs. Some students decorated their backpacks with their school colors, yellow and blue, while others incorporated their favorite sports teams. The interaction with the students showed the volunteers how important it was to have a beautiful, safe, fun place to learn and play.

After returning outside once again, volunteers were divided into 12 project groups to begin work. Projects ranged from building benches for an outdoor classroom to designing playground graphics for the basketball court and surrounding courts. Others worked on repainting the entrance doors of the school and building flower beds to beautify the area. Exterior wall murals were painted with motivational words etched in for the students.

By the time the volunteers were finished, the exterior transformation was astounding. The formerly cracked and peeling basketball court was completely repainted and sealed in the school's bright colors. Nets were added to the basketball rims along with a sprinting track, four square and hopscotch courts. The sprinting track was so popular that Taste and his friends were racing each other for a good 30 minutes following the unveiling!

Bench areas were added near the playground so that teachers and parents would have a place to relax while watching the children enjoy the updated space. Graffiti that once covered the walls facing the street and parking lot were painted over with grey. Educational panels bordered the outdoor learning area.

All in all, the outcome was phenomenal. Students coming to school every day will see the beautiful surroundings and take pride in the John Marshall Elementary school.

In addition to the service work, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, Assistant Coach Mike Longabardi and Boston Celtics Legend Dana Barros hosted basketball clinics for the fifth-grade students. The youth were able to learn the fundamentals of basketball from members of the game's highest level.

Knowing the importance of the service day on Boston’s youth, Mayor Thomas Menino, State Representative Carlos Henriquez, City Councilor Charles Yancy and City Councilor Felix Arroyo joined Harvard Pilgrim Health Care President and CEO Eric Schultz and Boston Celtics CEO and Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck to unveil the newly-refurbished outdoor space.

“Today, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, City Year and the Celtics exemplified what it means to be a true Celtic,” said Grousbeck. “Not only did we work together to give these Boston students an improved environment to succeed in throughout the school year, but we also showed them how to be a good role model in today’s society.”

Taste and his friends sat nearby while listening to the closing words from Grousbeck and the rest of the organizational representatives. There's no doubt that those students will remember those words for years to come, all while enjoying the fruits of their newly transformed school grounds.