FULTON, NY – Members of Lanigan Elementary School’s Student Congress each brought a friend and gathered at Fulton’s Patrick Park to clean and beautify the playground.
Students in grades third through sixth worked together to remove trash and debris, rake leaves and grass, pull weeds, and plant flowers just as they had previously at Recreation Park.
Members of the school’s Student Congress have one representative for each classroom and one senator for each grade.
“We meet so we can improve our school and improve our community,” said Halina Cole, a third grade classroom representative.
Students in the school’s Student Congress act as a voice for their peers and are available for their classmates to approach with problems or concerns.
To be elected, interested students had to run an election campaign complete with a speech for their classmates to then vote.
They hold monthly meetings to discuss ideas to promote school and community pride as well as encourage positive behavior through initiatives such as a school-wide anti-bullying campaign and a good behavior passport.
“The Student Congress works together to coordinate projects to help our school and community. It’s a tool to help them become civic-minded and to teach them how our government works, that it’s not only a service but a duty,” said Langian Principal Jeff Hendrickson.
The students brainstormed the idea to adopt a local park and had help from Principal Hendrickson, AmeriCorps member Tim Conners, and their teachers to follow through with action.
“We chose this so people can actually have fun and enjoy themselves at the park. More people will come if it’s clean and safe,” Cole said. “We feel proud and accomplished making our community safer. Even though it’s a small thing, we’ve made a big difference.”
Students in Congress are hopeful to continue their initiative to adopt-a-park each year, while sixth graders are hopeful to bring the initiative to the Junior High next year.
“We want to inspire people so they can see this and start doing the same thing,” Cole said.
As the students work to inspire others, they found help from their own inspiration.
Lanigan students are familiar with Tim Conners, not just as a friendly face in the hallways, but through his recent fundraiser deemed “MounTim Possible” in which Conners raised money for months prior to his summit of Africa’s highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro.
The money raised was donated to several organizations that Conners said saved his life during and after his intense battle with cancer (Tcell acute lymphoblastic leukemia) that not only left him physically blind, but with a newfound vision of life without limits.
His story was a popular one for the hometown hero. As an entire community rallied behind him in support, these young students were engaged with his story from the very beginning.
Now, Conners gives back to the same students that look up to him through his service with AmeriCorps.
“I wanted to get involved with this because it really exemplified what the AmeriCorps program is about- people coming together, volunteering for community betterment. I wanted to come here with the kids, help them out, and inspire them to really want to give back to their community,” said Conners, working the 900-hour AmeriCorps program at Lanigan.
“This is really about them. I just got involved to help them bring their idea to a reality. It’s exciting to help empower the next generation of people that will be serving our community. It’s good to see younger kids getting involved, being community oriented, and serving for the betterment of everyone. These kids are our future,” Conners said.
Don Patrick Jr., Third Ward councilor and the City of Fulton’s Common Council President, said he is pleased to have this fine group of students to look forward to as the city’s future.
“These kids are really taking ownership of the park, and that’s what matters. If they see someone litter or being destructive, they’re going to say something because when you own something, you’re proud of it. You take care of it. And that’s what these kids are doing,” Patrick said.
Patrick Park, while located in the ward Don Patrick Jr. represents, has a much more personal connection to the councilman.
“My uncles, Percy and Ken Patrick, donated the land for this park years ago,” he said. Since his time on the Common Council, Don Patrick Jr. has worked with community sponsors such as Sunoco and Dr. Juan Lopez to get new playground equipment.