Lead Story West Edition

Volunteers give makeover to Compton charter school

COMPTON — Celerity Achernar Charter School was given a much-needed exterior makeover Jan. 27. Housed in a part of the city that can be considered dreary and industrial, peppered with auto repair shops and residential houses, the school brightened its surroundings with a colorful call-to-action piece of artwork.

Beautify Earth, a nonprofit whose mission is to put an end to blighted walls by empowering artists, encouraging social responsibility and instilling community pride in impoverished or neglected neighborhoods, hosted more than 100 volunteers and students at a painting party. Equipped with bright colored enamel, paint brushes, roller pins, ladders, painter’s tape, gloves and upbeat music, mural artist Ruben Rojas taught eager volunteers how to paint the wall outside of the school’s playground in neat letters that spelled out Just Do Good.

“All we ask is that you bring your energy, your giving spirit, sense of community and we’ll show you the rest,” Rojas said. “The best part about painting murals is the different hands involved with the final picture. It warms my heart to see people giving of themselves to making their community, this school, a better place then when they left.”

The Beautify Earth education project seeks to create positive environments through inspirational murals, instructed by professional artists, offering a hands-on approach for participants to express their creativity as well as learn new techniques.

The common thread between the volunteers was that one person doing something could make a huge difference. Mothers came with babies, fathers with their daughters and teachers with their students, all in an effort to do something to directly beautify their community.

“There is a lack of goodness around here and we could use more of it,” volunteer Zee Johnson said. “One person can make an impact and as they say, living is giving. You can take, take, take or you can start to give. Why do I volunteer? Because I know that I have to do my part.

“I can’t think of a better way to be active in change,” Johnson added. “Once you’ve put some work into building something or creating a lasting mural, you take more pride in your surroundings. It becomes contagious.”

Included in the makeover were the lines on the basketball court which got brisk strokes of improvement by the steady-handed members of the Compton Initiative, another participating nonprofit whose mission includes the physical restoration of Compton homes, schools and churches.

“I’m out here volunteering because this is my school,” said Rico Sanchez. “I’m an eighth grader here so what I’m doing right now is helping me and my friends.

“I never realized how many people even cared about us to come and do this.”

Since 2006, the Compton Initiative has beautified more than 550 homes, 372 buildings at 30 schools, 35 church buildings, 31 public spaces, two medical clinics and 134 murals.

“I volunteer because everyone has to do their part,” Sumby Kuti said. “If people just show up and do their part, we’ll be in a much better position.

“I’m so glad that so many people showed up today. That’s the start.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, under the U.S. Department of Labor, conducted a survey in 2015 that showed more than 62.6 million people provide some type of volunteer service; the first being of service to a religious sector and the third is for their community. People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons.

For some, it offers the chance to give something back or make a difference to the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.

For this group of painters, it was about beautifying Compton.

“Compton is one of the most underserviced communities in Los Angeles so to say that this community needed it is an understatement,” Neal Bledsoe said. “I believe it is my duty to take part in making this neighborhood beautiful again. Why not take the power back?

“We have to realize that we all live in the same city and although L.A. is still very divided, I’m here today planting that seed that I hope will grow so that others will join me and come together. When you stand on the other side of the street or turn that corner and see this mural, you can’t help but feel some kind of pride.”