LINCOLN SQUARE — Instead of staying home and sleeping in, Alan Hernandez, 18, opted to go to school Saturday. The senior at Amundsen High School in Lincoln Square arrived at 8 a.m. to help "spruce up" the campus.
"It's the place where we are getting our education; it's important to keep it clean," Hernandez said. "It's also fun getting to meet people from our community and working on something like this together."
Hernandez was among more than 60 staff, students and community members volunteering for Community Spruce-Up day at Amundsen. Among those pitching in were Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Ald. Ameya Pawar (46th) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).
For principal Anna Pavichevich, community participation in the much-needed TLC project goes a long way.
"Throughout the year, we have community members ask what ways they can support the school," Pavichevich said. "With this project we matched the communities interest with a need."
Volunteers assisted with painting walls, hanging up new bulletin boards, cleaning windows, wiping down lockers and completing minor repairs throughout the nearly 100-year-old building.
"We decided to work on things that our engineers can't get to during the school day because they are working on other things to keep the school functioning," Pavichevich said. "By the end of the day, we should at least meet all the goals we set out to accomplish today."
The Community Spruce-Up Day comes just a few days before the school holds one of the four International Baccalaureate program meetings for prospective students and parents across Chicago. The school is expecting up to 4,000 students and parents to visit the school during the meeting.
"We want to make this place comfortable and welcoming," Pavichevich said.
The event, organized by staff and Friends of Amundsen, had been in the works for months and, finally after school resumed from winter break, a decision was made earlier in the week, said co-organizer Wendy Vasquez, a member of Friends of Admundsen .
"We've been talking about it for months, but we were trying to figure out when would be a good time, especially with so many things going on," Vasquez said. "The real motivator in this case was the citywide International Baccalaureate meeting. Once we decided, we reached out to the aldermen, put it out on social media, and we got a great response."
O'Connor and Pawar notified their constituents in their newsletters, and each donated $1,000 to assist with supplies needed for the work.
"[Principal Pavichevich] has been in constant communication with Ald. Pawar and myself with trying to get collaborative community efforts off the ground," O'Connor said. "This is a great way to get the community involved."
"Anywhere we can help to maintain and improve the school, we will do that," O'Connor said. "This day is just like when you're preparing your house when company is coming over."
Pat Wilder, 71, heard about the event from one of the newsletters and decided to come out to volunteer.
"Anytime you have people meet up and do good work like this, it's rewarding," she said.
Teacher Mayra Bravo-Gonzalez was excited to see the cleanup process in action, saying "These students are amazing and beautiful. They deserve a clean and beautiful school."
Vasquez said she was excited to see the community support that came together with only a week's notice.
"Typically, when we make this request for community involvement, you get some of the usual suspects, but with this project, I don't know most people here, and that's fantastic. We have people of all ages from around the community who want to support the local neighborhood school," Vasquez. "Getting them in here, sharing their time is a big takeaway. And all the work we are doing, they are little things, but they are a lot of things that will make a big difference."
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