STAMFORD, CT – April 20, 2015 – The before and after pictures tell the story: what was a drab, rundown park on April 10th is now vibrant, inviting and ready for action, thanks to the collaborative effort of the team from Stamford Public Education Foundation (SPEF) together with students from The University of Connecticut-Stamford (UConn Stamford) plus students and families from Newfield and Hart Magnet Elementary Schools. The group of 66 volunteers worked tirelessly on Saturday, April 11, starting at 10:00 a.m., cleaning up trash, removing old plants, installing planters decorated by elementary school students, replacing a basketball net, painting asphalt games, and building a chalkboard wall.

This park rebuild and clean-up was the culmination of the lessons learned during the Service-Learning program that SPEF delivers to fifth grade students at Newfield Elementary and Hart Magnet Elementary Schools, in partnership with UConn Stamford. The program engages 26 UConn students from two courses, “The Family School Partnership” and “Low-Income Families,” both taught by Human Development Professor Dr. Monica Miller-Smith.

“After 9 months of planning, it was wonderful to see everyone work together to transform the park into a beautiful play space for the kids that live in that neighborhood.  My Service-Learning courses give my students an opportunity to actually experience the information that is discussed in class each week and perform service in the community, which I believe is a valuable and irreplaceable learning experience. I look forward to teaching more Service-Learning courses and working with SPEF in the future,” said Dr. Miller-Smith.

The university students serve as mentors to more than 90 fifth grade students at Hart; earlier in the school year they mentored 87 fifth grade students at Newfield students. During weekly mentoring sessions, mentors and mentees discuss topics related to service-learning, such as civic engagement, community service, and leadership. Students from UConn, Hart, Newfield, along with parents/guardians, participated in the park rebuild.