In spring of 2013, during her last semester as principal of Wallingford Elementary School, Dr. Ellen Milgrim had this persistent thought. “I felt we had to engage kids in the WES community who had nothing to do after school.”
She and NAACP Media chapter president Dr. Joan DuVall Flynn convened other leaders, parents and neighbors in the South Media neighborhood of Nether Providence, Dr. Milgrim said. An agreement quickly emerged to develop an after-school program to engage students in collaborating on projects that would benefit the community, and make them proud of their contributions. The group of WES students in grades 1 to 5 would meet on six Mondays each semester. It was not a hard sell to students or supporters, she said.
“The Community Arts Center was very eager to do outreach, and an art program made so much sense. The South Media Fire Company was dying to get the community into the firehouse, and it was perfect for a venue. We wanted to work on something that was meaningful locally; WES needed paving stones for its library courtyard, so those mosaics became the first of our public art projects.”
At a celebration this week of its sixth completed collaborative project, students and their families joined Nether Providence and Wallingford Swarthmore School District leaders, WES and SRS teachers and other supporters at the South Media firehouse, then paraded to the sites where their works were recently installed. The hand-painted sign at Sapovits Park, and a painted archway and woven decorations at Woodrow Wilson parks in South Media welcome all visitors, and will be a lasting source of pride for their creators.
After the celebration, Dr. Milgrim reflected, “I didn’t know I was still going to be doing this after I retired, but it ended up being the best thing ever.”