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Better curb appeal at Booker T. Washington

More than a dozen volunteers got their hands dirty Monday morning to spruce up the entrance to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Gloved volunteers got on their knees to grab weeds and dead grass while others spread mulch and cut back overgrowth with hedgers. Staff dressed in red school-spirit shirts smelled fresh cut grass in the air and were grateful for the cloudy skies and occasionally cool breeze despite the heat.

“The overcast-ness is much appreciated,” third grade teacher Kaylie Jo Chadwick said as she loaded another lawn bag.

Shelley Barlow with Healthy Suffolk stopped by to lend a hand and check on the community garden in the school’s courtyard that’s overseen by teacher Jennifer Owens.

“Some school gardens stop when school stops, but Jenny keeps it going all summer,” Barlow said.

Glenn Lyttle Sr., pastor of Olive Branch Baptist Church and owner of Anointed Cuts Lawn Care in Smithfield, offered his services with the help of his wife, Carol, and church volunteers at the request of Booker T. Washington Elementary School Principal Chanel Woods. He said the improvements should equally improve the mood of the kids when fall classes begin.

“It helps them have pride in their school,” he said.

Arias Worrell, 13, got involved through Karen Perry, a first-grade teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary who’s married to Worrell’s pastor at Triumph in Victory Christian Church, Ernest Perry.

“It makes me feel good to do something good for the community,” Worrell said.

Representatives of Peabody’s Pressure Washing and Mobile Detailing, Spotless and SKELO Enterprises arrived to touch up the school’s brick walls. They were brought together by SKELO Enterprises owner Abdul Jacobs, 43, who was a student at Booker T. Washington back when it was a middle school.

“It’s our way to say thanks for their business and give back to the community,” Jacobs said.

This will be the ninth year at Booker T. Washington Elementary for paraprofessional Tabitha Mills, who was happy to help bring new life to the front lawn.

“I’m glad to see that there’s going to be some livelihood on the outside,” Mills said.

Woods will start her first school year as principal of Booker T. Washington Elementary this fall after seven years of being the Nansemond Parkway Elementary School principal. Her team’s goal is to improve the curb appeal of the school for students, parents and staff.

“You want students, parents and the community to feel welcome, and that starts on the outside,” Vice Principal Bernette Brown said.

Volunteers will keep working this summer and throughout the school year to make Booker T. Washington more inviting, including a new school banner that will be put on display sometime this August, Woods said.

“It means a lot,” she said. “You want the students and the staff to feel proud about what they’re walking into every day, and as well as the community.”