Bisbee High School is buzzing with activity as a seven-member team from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps has agreed to devote eight weeks to sprucing up the school.
A paint job, grounds work, laying out a commu-nity garden and other landscaping is a long-term vision for Principal Lisa Holland.
Thanks to Darcy Tessman, with the Arizona 4-H Club youth development office in Cochise County, she now has a team ready and willing to do the work.
"We establish projects for them to work on, whether it be to work on the garden projects or to help clean and paint the campus," Holland said. "They will also be helping us put in a new lab as part of the Joint Technical Education District program."
Team members have moved the roses to a different location, set up a vegetable garden, painted breezeway poles and will paint certain classrooms, she said.
The school's Alumni Association has also come into the picture by donating funds for new trophy cases.
Tessman will train the volunteers to refurbish bicycles and create picnic tables from pallets in an effort to introduce ideas for recycling.
Once team members have the know-how, they'll be able to teach the students, noted team leader Lindsey Pettit.
"Tessman is coming up with a lot of new and innovative ways to keep the kids in positive and productive activities after school," Pettit said.
"And it helps create that spark of entrepreneurship and to take pride in their craft," noted Jacob Atkins, from Brunswick, Maine. He took a year off from school to be a part of AmeriCorps.
One of the best things about being in the corps is that the students come from across the country and have varying interests in career choices. However, according to Atkins and Pettit, who is from Satellite Beach, Fla., what they learn working in various communities is not only worthwhile education-wise, but personally. They get to make a difference in the lives of complete strangers.
Pettit was pleased to bring a new face to the old school and said she hoped the students would enjoy the new gardens and fresh paint.
Atkins, who acts as the media specialist, always wanted to come west and jumped at the chance to see Southeastern Arizona and encounter some of the cross-culture in the border area of the "wild, wild West."
"It's my call of duty. I wanted to serve the communities in my own country and put my hands in different service projects," he said. "AmeriCorps is an appetizer of many types of service programs. So it helped me solidify my own interests, which will probably fall under social work.'
Anyone 18 to 24 years old can enter Americorps, said Pettit, a college graduate. It doesn't matter if one has no college, some college or a degree. Two of her team-mates came right out of high school.
Atkins learned about AmeriCorps while in high school, so it was something he kept in the back of his mind when he went to college.
Holland, the principal, said the school has been "working ... on grants to help us with our initial idea of a sustainable garden. This is a pretty big project, and it will take a number of years to come to fruition," she said.
"We received $4,500 from the Cochise County Foundation and then another $12,000 from the Arizona Forestry Service.
"The forestry grant will be used to create more of a mesquite-type orchard to prevent soil erosion, provide a habitat for animals that can then be identified and studied and for our student population to enjoy the campus a little bit more."
The way Holland sees it, the new gardens - one for vegetables, one for pollination (flowers) and the mini-forest - will provide the students with valuable experience in science, math, construction, marketing and sales, and could point to careers not considered before.
It also includes partnering with University of Arizona students who can show Bisbee students how research is done.
"When we get the mesquite forest going, we'll be gathering the bean pods and making mesquite flour, and we can also market the mesquite wood," Holland added. "But right now we're just in the starting phase.
"It also makes the school more visibly appealing for our students and our stakeholders," said Holland, who noted how much wear and tear a school takes over the years.
Holland's efforts and those of many others will perhaps make a student take a look around at the difference a group of strangers made and, literally, stop and smell the roses.