When Quantina Sides became principal of Highland Gardens Elementary School in 2020, Principal Sides’ dream for her students was to expose them to learning in creative and fun environments that would increase engagement, knowledge, and comprehension. One project to take her vision from dream to reality – the construction of an outdoor reading lab – was recently completed with help from Leadership Montgomery and Guardian Credit Union.
Guardian team member Courtney Pierce was accepted to participate in the 2022 class of Leadership Montgomery. During this opportunity to serve the community, Pierce’s small group selected Highland Gardens Elementary School’s Outdoor Reading Lab as their community service project.
Pierce approached Guardian with the opportunity, and it was an easy “yes.” Guardian sponsored the funding and construction of the project with the help of team members Phillip McKeown, Shine Peek and Todd Burns, whose hard work and building skills brought the reading lab to life. Now stretched along the side yard of the school are 10 brightly colored hammocks, ready for students to grab their favorite book and spend some time in the fresh air and sunshine.
Principals Sides’ dream doesn’t end here. She is currently trying to secure funding for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) classrooms, a Lego lab, an incentive arcade (where students will earn entry for good behavior, improvements in their grades, etc.), and a special food pantry for students and their families to supplement when family budgets are tight.
What began for Pierce as a commitment to help create the Outdoor Reading Lab quickly turned into additional opportunities to serve the Highland Gardens students by reading to the summer school classes, helping teachers prepare their classrooms for the school year, and offering a helping hand wherever needed. “When I first went to visit the school and meet with Principal Sides, I couldn’t believe how hard these teachers worked to make it fun for the kids,” said Pierce. “Most of them come out of pocket to pay for supplies for their students. I want to encourage people to take a day and volunteer at a school close to you. Most times they just need extra hands!”
Guardian is proud to partner with Highland Gardens Elementary School and we hope you will be encouraged to find creative ways to reach out and support our public schools. If you or someone you know is inspired to help at Highland Gardens Elementary School, you can contact Principal Sides at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit their website here.