Volunteers, donors create reading garden
An outdoor alcove that once was little more than a plot of dirt and weeds at Port Aransas High School has been transformed into a wellmanicured reading garden, thanks to the work of a group of volunteers.
The effort started with Kate Prejean, a teacher who, in the 2007- 08 school year, taught the PAHS service learning class - a group that does community projects. Prejean applied to the Port Aransas Education Foundation for a grant to fix up the 17-by-27-foot alcove, which is surrounded by three walls on the south side of the high school.
The education foundation is a non-profit organization that helps Port Aransas schools buy materials and programs not funded by school budgets. The foundation in April distributed 29 grants totaling more than $48,000, but money to refurbish the alcove was not part of the awards.
Prejean resigned from PAHS at the end of the school year, but she and her service learning class first cleaned out the alcove with shovels and rakes.
Since the alcove didn't get a grant, education foundation board member Michelle Sowers decided to find another way to fix it up.
"I thought it was a great idea," Sowers said. "That area needed some improvements, and I was looking forward to being part of that."
Sowers' move wasn't completely unheard of. The education foundation has been known to find ways to help even when grant money can't be stretched far enough to fulfill certain requests.
To fix up the alcove, Sowers applied to Lowe's Home Improvement for a $1,000 grant. She won one through a national program the company has for improvements at public school facilities.
After consulting with Lowe's experts, Sowers used the money to buy plants including Texas sage, plumbagos, esperanza, ixoras, palms and Mexican heather. She also purchased a birdbath, four concrete benches and an arbor.
Island Construction of Port Aransas donated river rocks for landscaping.
Volunteers installed all of the materials in one day: Aug. 16. Among those providing labor were Sowers; Janice Roberts, president of the education foundation; her husband, Lex, and son, Jake; Jana Snow, secretary of the foundation; Snow's son, Pablito; teacher Kate Williams; PAHS Principal Travis Longanecker, his wife, Kristi Longanecker, a Brundrett Middle School teacher; the Longaneckers' children, Hattie and Cole; and Michele Lorette, an education foundation board member.