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Students defy adversity

Students defy adversity

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On Aug. 12, vandals caused about $130,000 in fire damage to the playground structure at Ina Arbuckle Elementary.

On Aug. 31, volunteers – led by 83 high school students – painted games and murals
on the Ina playground. The result: Ina’s 495 students have new opportunities for
fun and play and joy, along with lessons in compassion, unity and resilience.

“I really love that so many students are here to help out the community and support kids” after a setback, said Ina teacher Mindy Vierra. The elder students, primarily from Rubidoux High, were joined by teachers and staff, school and community groups, and a few students from Patriot High in painting hopscotch, four square, and beanbag-toss games on Ina’s blacktop. They also bedecked handball walls with student-designed murals.

It was a playground makeover, a lifting of spirits after vandals charred Ina’s metal climbing structure and melted the structure’s slide, awning and padding. The climbing apparatus, the centerpiece of Ina’s playground, accentuated a beautiful campus modernization completed this year at the 63-year-old school. Such context only sharpened the blow for Ina and its allies. 

“I thought, ‘How can someone do this to innocent children?’” said Lashawn, an RHS senior who helped paint a beanbag-toss game. “I decided to help because I needed to make something that was wrong into a right.” Jimmy, also a Rubidoux senior, added, “I went to Ina and I didn’t want to see my nice elementary school ruined. I decided to help paint four square games for kids; I may not be creative, but I can help paint boxes in primary colors.”

James Wandrie, principal of Ina Arbuckle, said that not only will the brightened
playground offer more activities for students during recess, but “it also shows our
elementary kids that the community cares about them and that they, too, can make a positive impact on their communities and the world.”

The vandals, he added, have been caught and could face expulsion and criminal
charges. In addition, the family of each vandal will pay thousands of dollars in
restitution, he said.

Meanwhile, at RHS, it was students’ idea to step in and help, Mr. Wandrie said. The
teens led an outpouring of good will, constructive action and support for Ina
students. Kindness is a theme the volunteers emphasized repeatedly – in their
words and in their work:
▪ Marieli, a senior at RHS, said, “I wanted to help out of an act of kindness.”
▪ At least two of the new handball-wall murals reference kindness. One shows
an Ina eagle perched in a blooming, pink-blossomed tree, above sunflowers
and tulips. An inscription in the top right corner reads, “No act of kindness
no matter how small is wasted.”
▪ Ms. Vierra agreed: “There is nothing more important than giving back to the community. Learning this lesson will last a lifetime. Every small act of kindness makes a big difference.”

A coalition of groups modeled that lesson at the playground makeover, including
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID, a college preparation program);
the Associated Student Body (ASB); the National Honor Society; Art; Choir; ROTC;
Rubidoux Early College High School (RECHS); the nonprofit group Reach Out; and
the Ina Arbuckle Parent Teacher Association.

Rubidoux teacher Briane Roble said, “Today is an example of the power of
community.” Even athletes from Rubidoux and Patriot set aside their rivalry – the morning after clashing on the football field – to serve others. “Sure we are all getting along,” said Marco, an RHS basketball player. “We are all JUSD students working together to help little kids. That is all that matters!” Asked what they would say to the vandals, the teens grew reflective.

Alyssa, a freshman at Patriot, said, “I would ask, ‘Do you really want to create an
environment where children have nothing to play with?’ Did they think about how
sad the student faces would be when they saw their new equipment ruined?”
Zoey, a freshman at Rubidoux, added, “Well, people that do things like this are often times in pain or dealing with difficult situations themselves. I don’t think I would say anything to them. I would just hope that things get better for them and that this doesn’t happen again.”

Educators praised the group of student volunteers for their compassion, grace and
the example they set – for the community broadly and for Ina students specifically.
As Ms. Roble put it, “What better way to learn without limits than to learn at a young age that nothing is impossible when people perform acts of kindness for others?”​