WASHINGTON – First lady Michelle Obama,members of Congress and their families joined more than 500 volunteers in purple T-shirts to build a playground Wednesday for students at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School.
“You all make sure you help take care of this playground,” Obama said. “Make sure that kids get over here and play.”
The playground was the 2,000th constructed by KaBOOM!,a nonprofit organization that creates play spaces for children. Beginning at 5:30 a.m.,KaBOOM! staff members gathered with volunteers from sponsoring corporations,AmeriCorps regional workers and members of the Congress Heights Community Training Development Corporation to assemble jungle gyms,swing sets and picnic benches. About 50 students selected by their teachers also helped out. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided funding for the project.
Designated the 2011 Congressional Day of Service Event,the playground build drew several representatives and members of their families to the school yard. Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton,D-D.C.,and Director of Public Affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Elizabeth Kucinich,wife of Rep. Dennis Kucinich,D-Ohio,also took part.
“To see so many young people involved today is great,” Kucinich said.
Imagine Southeast was created in 2008 and held classes in a church before renovating and moving into a previously abandoned public school building earlier this year. Principal Stacey Smith said that the nearly all of the school’s approximately 480 students come from a low-income community,but they are doing well academically.
CEO and founder of KaBOOM! Darrell Hammond spoke to the volunteers before introducing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,whose wife,Karen Duncan,works for KaBOOM!
“Thank you all for being here today to celebrate an incredible milestone,” Hammond said. “Fifteen years,2,000 play spaces,1 million volunteers and 5.5 million kids served – how cool is that?”
Arne Duncan introduced Obama,who thanked the volunteers for their service before getting to work herself.
“I’m going to stop talking,” she said. “I’m going to mix some concrete.”
Obama tightened screws on playground equipment,raked mulch and installed a slide and several musical toys. She joined Smith and Hammond in cutting the ribbon to open the playground and then took the inaugural ride down the new slide.
Reach reporter Rebecca Koenig at [email protected] or 202-326-9867
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