Community Improvement

Blind Side Community Blitz Improves St. Louis

The hit film The Blind Side features the story of Michael Oher, a boy who touched the lives of the family that took him in off the streets, as much as he touched theirs.

Now, Oher’s story has touched the lives of students and faculty in the St. Louis Public Schools as four St. Louis Public High Schools participated in community improvement projects courtesy of The Blind Side.

Inspired by the story of the Blind Side, the Chris Draft Family Foundation worked with Beaumont, Roosevelt, Sumner and Vashon High Schools in St. Louis to participate in a community improvement project of their choosing on Saturday, May 8. Each of the schools also received donated supplies from the local Home Depot.

“I think it’s remarkable what Chris Draft is doing to be able to give back,” said Roosevelt Principal Terry Houston. “It lets you know that he understands what humanity is all about. He’s been blessed, and he’s just trying to spread his blessing.”

Draft was on hand Thursday to present each of the schools with the funds for their projects, and the students, faculty and even some alumni, came out to make their communities a better place.

Roosevelt High School decided to spend Saturday morning cleaning up not only their school, but the surrounding community as well. A large contingent of students and staff met in the gymnasium, where they heard from Principal Houston, as well as several coaches and representatives from the Chris Draft Family Foundation.

“What we try to teach the kids here at Roosevelt is to not always look for a hand out,” Houston said. “So, we teach our kids that it’s time to give back to those that have given so freely to you, namely the taxpayers that are in the vicinity.”

The students then headed outdoors in groups, armed with trash bags, and began making their high school’s campus a better place. They moved into the surrounding community, picking up trash in front of the homes surrounding them, overall making their community a better place to live.

“I always like to do community service projects,” said Roosevelt student Charles Banks. “I promote myself as a motivational leader, one of the few we have at Roosevelt High School, so I try to enhance that within everyone around me.”

Vashon High School decided to dedicate their community improvement project to the people that have given back to them, their Hall of Fame. Vashon High School features a large display of the former students that have been inducted, but it’s running out of room. Students and faculty spent the morning re-arranging the plaques, using new display materials, to make room for new inductees.

Sumner High School enlisted the help not only of students and faculty, but of alumni and even some of the neighborhood as they cleared out a plot of land across the street from the school to make room for a garden. Students were removing stumps while faculty cut down tree limbs, making the area suitable for a garden, which will leave a lasting impression for Sumner classes of the future.

“This lot has been here for years, and I think off and on there have been some school-led efforts, but as the principals change or leadership changes, efforts change,” said Sumner Principal Terrell Henderson. “We’re just picking it back up. It’s right behind our high school, so we feel compelled to keep it clean, to see how we can use it and align it with our teaching and learning programs.”

For Henderson, the opportunity was all about giving back to the community he grew up in.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Henderson said. “I grew up in this community, so (I enjoy) working in this community and giving back. We have an opportunity to partner with neighbors from the community, our school, the Chris Draft Family Foundation, our students and our teachers that were able to come out here, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re trying to help uplift the community through this beautification effort. I’m extremely pleased, we’re having fun, and we’re looking forward to more activities like this.”

Beaumont High School had plans to visit and beautify a local nursing home, but their service day had to be rescheduled due to a scheduling conflict with the nursing home.

In the end, the students, faculty and staff were all setting an example for the St. Louis community.
“I love leading by example, that’s my whole motto,” Banks said. “That’s Roosevelt’s motto this year too, leading by example.”