Stevens Creek Elementary School works hard to be seen as more than just a school in Columbia County.
Efforts by the school's administration, Parent-Teacher Organization and pupils achieved that goal recently when the Columbia County Clean and Beautiful group awarded the school its quarterly Point of Pride Award.
The award is given to businesses and organizations that make a special effort to beautify their grounds. A specially designed sign is placed in front of the business to recognize it as a Point of Pride recipient.
"The main thing for us is to know we are a part of the community, not just a school where parents bring their children every day, but we are an element in the community and are recognized that way," said Michelle Paschal, principal of Stevens Creek Elementary School, which enrolls nearly 800 pupils.
The Parent-Teacher Organization's landscaping committee, headed by Kris Hardy, is responsible for maintaining a large portion of the school's grounds, including the front entrance, playground area and area in front of the building.
"We've always tried to keep the grounds looking nice," said Hardy, who has children at the school in the second and fifth grades. "We go the extra mile, and it's really through the generosity of our parents who give to the PTO that the PTO can go out and use some of that money to take care of the grounds."
A portion of the money donated is used to hire a landscaper to supplement the maintenance by the county and the PTO.
"This is the first school, that I'm aware of, that we've given the Point of Pride award to," said Paula Dukes, chairwoman of the Point of Pride committee. "They've done a really good job in their landscaping."
Paschal said residents of the county are recognizing the school more since the 2002 addition of the Evans-to-Locks Road bicycle path, which runs from the Savannah Rapids Pavilion to the school's parking lot.
"The addition of the bike path has really added more visibility in that people park at the school on the weekends when they are using the bike path," Paschal said.
Hardy said it's important to instill a sense of pride in pupils, adding that keeping the grounds maintained and looking nice plays into that role.
"We do it because we think it makes the appearance of the school better and parents become involved, and it creates a sense of pride that spills over to the students," he said.
The school's PTO used a portion of donations to install an irrigation system and sod on the playground several years ago. Hardy said plans are to redo a lot of the playground equipment later this year.
"It's a group effort," he said. "To say one person alone does it isn't true. It's totally a group effort."
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