On Tuesday June 12th, attendees to the 2012 Laureate Leadership Summit joined leaders from the Academy for International Education (AIE) and members of the local community to build a playground, gardens and dedicated learning spaces at the Glenn H. Curtiss Elementary in Miami Springs, Florida. Laureate and AIE worked with KaBOOM!, the national non-profit dedicated to saving play, to plan and organize the build.
The day began with an introduction about the Academy and the goal for the afternoon’s work – to convert an empty space between academic buildings into a playground for students from Miami Springs and create new outdoor classrooms and gardens that will benefit future generations of children. Volunteers were split into different groups, each led by a KaBOOM! Build Captain, and charged with specific tasks. Some teams were mixing the thousands of pounds of cement needed to secure the structures, others were spreading the hundreds of cubic yards of mulch to ensure the playing and learning places were safe and additional volunteers were building structures and painting murals around the property. Leaders from KaBOOM! were onsite to guide the volunteers and ensure site and build safety. Several Laureate leaders who had received special training in advance served as the Build Captains and worked to keep the teams focused on the goals for each group.
At the halfway point, Laureate announced that it was awarding two AIE teachers full scholarships to Walden University so they may pursue a Master’s degree in leadership. “I greeted and thanked every person from Laureate as they got off the bus and was very touched when I said thank you and they said ‘No, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to help’,” said Principal Vera Hirsh.
Emily Knight, President of Kendall College, summed up the feeling on behalf of many Laureate volunteers, “This was a chance to make an impact. My life is busy and I’m really thankful that Laureate gave me the opportunity to participate in a day like this.”
As teams finished their tasks, they moved onto other teams to help make sure everything was done by the end of the day. Around 6pm, as the dust settled, volunteers were delighted to see a new playground and learning spaces that will benefit generations of future students. During the closing ceremony, Doug Becker, Laureate’s Chairman and CEO, asked volunteers to shout out what country they were representing and confirmed to the AIE community: “Today we helped to put the ‘International’ in your name!” The list spanned dozens of countries including Argentina, Malaysia, Peru, Brazil, France, and China. The Foundation for Educational Innovation, Inc.’s, Michael Bell, noted that last year the community found its heart with the reopening of the school, thanks to Principal Hirsh. Adding, “Today, AIE found its soul…we now have our heart and soul.”
Laureate was thrilled to be able to work with an esteemed non-profit like KaBOOM!, that has rallied more than 1 million volunteers to build more than 2,000 new playgrounds serving more than 5 million children, as well as a leader in elementary education like the Academy for International Education, focused on creating multi-cultural students, to make a lasting contribution to the Southern Florida community.