The Cali Calmecac Language Academy community of parents, students and teachers are coming together in a beautiful way, and principal Sharon Ferrer couldn’t be happier.

“I think the reason I’m just so proud is that this is just people wanting to do good for our community. And it’s really refreshing to be a part of it in a time of such chaos,” she said. “I’m so privileged to be here and working on this campus and I just want everyone to know how awesome it is. In the time we’re living right now, where there’s a lot of negative things happening, it’s nice to hear something positive of a community coming together.”

At the end of the last school year, parents Kate Burges and Jose Villagomez came to Ferrer with a plan for sprucing up the admittedly drab campus. Burges got the local Kelley Moore store to donate the paint and Villagomez brought in two of his own employees (he is a professional painter) to complete the project.

The finished project includes several bright murals, including a stained glass pattern and rainbow stripes and rainbow painted stair risers on the stairs up to the fifth grade classrooms. Finally, bright mutli-colored concentric circles now grace the Wall Ball backstop in the playground.

“They did the work of like four people it was insane, the amount of work they put in,” said Ferrer. “I would come and they would be here and it would be hot and they would have a little tent up and they wouldn’t take lunches. They just worked and worked and worked.”

Ferrer also said they had a specific vision, but that it has been a greater impact than she dreamed.

“We had a vision of adding color and joy, they wanted it to have a more joyful feeling and it’s just made a huge impact the teachers love it, the kids love it,” she said. “It was, to me, a perfect example of what the community at Cali represents, because this was envisioned by parents, executed by parents ... so the kids could come back to this beautiful project.

“It seems so simple, and I remember in the beginning thinking, ‘OK this will be nice’ but its really nice, and parents are always telling me they love the change and kids are like ‘how did this happen,’ the painting fairy came over the summer,” she finished with a smile.

The project was so successful, there are plans to add more artwork.

“There are plans to continue to add some more murals, we have plans to add some cement boards, which are these boards that you can paint, all over the school and then allow murals or art projects to be done on there every year, and little by little,” Ferrer said.

While the second project at Cali is less aesthetically pleasing, it has far reaching effects. According to Ferrer, three teachers spearheaded a plan to educate the campus about the importance of reducing waste, and implemented a program to teach all the students about recycling and composting.

“Three of our teachers just decided they were going to do it, and it has really grown,” she said. “We got a new lunch structure this summer, which has allowed us to have a little more space. So, now every row of tables has its own garbage can, recycling can and its own compost bucket. The kids have been learning what goes where, and ted its way more complicated than it looks. We’ve reduced the amount of trash we are producing significantly and the kids now know the difference between composting and recycling.”

The three teachers James Brooks, Rufino Rosas and Kristine Behrens donated their time and lunch periods to help educate the student body, teachers and yard duty. Ferrer says she has now seen that education moving from the students to their families.

“I’ve seen the kids say ‘No, no, no, Mom, not there, that’s the wrong one. You have to put it in that one,’” said Ferrer.  “The students’ awareness of the importance of recycling and taking care of our earth has increased enormously, and its because our teachers wanted this done and they are doing it and they are doing it without asking for any help or compensation.”

In addition to the school-wide activities, Brooks also runs an environmental club for students, who also undertake trash collection and cleanup and help with the education on environmental issues. Behrens spearheaded the plan, and has been in charge of the education of the other teachers and yard duty staff. She will also have an environmental education booth at this year’s Moveathon fundraiser.

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