Couch's Corner: Sunset Middle School renovation project
Last updated 4/19/2021 at 1:56pm | View PDF
One of the most rewarding experiences of serving as Fourth District supervisor is working with young adults that share an idealism and belief that no limits can stop what they can accomplish.
I was reminded of this when I met with some of the youth leaders at Transitional Youth Mobilizing for Change, a local nonprofit that creates opportunities for young people 16-24 years of age to identify and take on issues of concern in their community.
Back in the fall of 2019, these youth were inspired to do a “ball drive” for Sunset Middle School in Weedpatch when they found out that students lacked basic sports and athletic equipment to play with during recess and lunch.
One of two schools serving just under 700 students in the tiny Vineland School District, Sunset was originally built in 1934 to serve the needs of children from families migrating from Texas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days. Today the school continues the tradition of serving the children of farmworkers. Many of these families are seasonally employed, and they struggle to make ends meet when work isn’t available. The Vineland School District has limited resources, but it is a hub for local families in this rural community.
TYM4Change partnered with local Starbucks stores to conduct the ball drive, and in the winter of 2020 they delivered over 100 basketballs, volleyballs and footballs to the district.
But they didn’t stop there. It turns out the huge, sprawling playground at Sunset School has no shade, no seating, is full of gopher holes, and has no designated sports areas. The basketball court needs to be resurfaced. The volleyball court lacks nets. The district is in the process of seeking state funding to renovate the school buildings (the cafeteria, for example, has no air conditioning and relies on swamp coolers), but has to prioritize the academic needs of students over the play area.
The youth of TYM4Change decided they could take on the challenge of renovating the six or so acres that make up the Sunset School campus. They approached DeWalt Corporation and DeWalt stepped up to the plate and mapped the campus using drone technology—an in-kind contribution to the school. Starbucks is continuing to partner with TYM4Change to fundraise for the project during Give Big Kern on Tuesday, May 4. The youth approached Design Concepts, a company out of Boulder, Colorado, that has a reputation for creating outdoor learning environments. Design Concepts agreed to work with TYM4Change to create a Master Plan for the renovation at a significantly reduced fee.
While part of the Master Plan process involves getting input from students, school staff, parents, and other members of the community, TYM4Change youth already envision shaded seating, walkways, an outdoor classroom, a soccer field, a volleyball court, a community garden modeled after the “edible schoolyard,” and so much more.
When asked how they plan to fund this, Rachel Sanders, the youth team leader for the project, said “Kern County is generous, and we know that local businesses and individuals will contribute what they can to give the Sunset kids a campus they can be proud of.”
If you are looking for a project to support, consider the Sunset School Renovation Project. Also, if you are—or know someone—16-24 years of age looking for a chance to make a meaningful difference, go to tym4change.org and join the team. Feel free to donate toward the project through Give Big Kern by visiting the TYM4Change profile page at givebigkern.org. The fundraising drive runs through May 5.
Whether you choose this or any number of charitable organizations or projects as part of Give Big Kern, giving is what makes these organizations do the great things they do. For any questions, don’t hesitate to call at 661-868-3680 or email us at [email protected]. Have a safe week.