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Hundreds of NEA members from across the country spend the day refurbishing an Atlanta elementary school

Educators volunteer for annual ‘Outreach to Teach’ community service project

WASHINGTON - June 29, 2013 -

Educators from around the country picked up hammers, shovels, mops, and paintbrushes today to give a needy local school a much-needed facelift.

Some 400 NEA members—current, future, and retired teachers; higher education faculty; and education support professionals—put in a full day and lots of sweat equity to spruce up Thomasville Heights Elementary in southeast Atlanta. In this “Outreach to Teach” community service project, sponsored each year by the NEA Student program, volunteers spent the day repairing, landscaping, painting, cleaning, and decorating the school. An outdoor classroom got a makeover, as did the teachers’ lounge, which now sports both new flooring and furniture. NEA members from as far away as Hawaii pitched in to help.

This is the 17th year of community service by the award-winning Outreach to Teach program. Each year, hundreds of NEA members come early to the Association’s Annual Meeting city to give back in this way.

“Ensuring every child’s basic right to a great public school starts with providing children with an environment that uplifts them,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “We get such strong support for this annual service project because our members understand the importance of students and school employees learning and working in safe, healthy, and positive environments. Investments like this are important in making sure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”

Thomasville Heights Elementary School, home of the Cougars, has a new principal this year, Cynthia Jewell, who is working with the community to turn the school around. “A New Year, A New Attitude, A New Thomasville” is her mantra. Jewell is delighted that the school was selected for the Outreach to Teach makeover. “Our students and staff are excited to be getting this kind of affirmation and support,” she says, “and it is another way to show parents that we really do have a new Thomasville.” She was also enthusiastic about the first- and second-graders being included in this year’s Read Across America event with the Atlanta Braves.

Outreach to Teach began in 1996 as a beautification project to give back to schools. Past efforts have included schools in Philadelphia, Orlando, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas, Compton, and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Since the service project began, the number of volunteers has grown exponentially.

“It feels so good to help a school in such a concrete way,” said David Tjaden, chair of the NEA Student Program. “At the end of the day, we have visible proof of our efforts. We know our time was well spent because we really do believe that every student has a right to attend a public school that is clean, safe, inviting, and up-to-date.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 822-7823,


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