If a visitor toured the NCHS campus prior to October of 2015, they would have noticed an abundance of struggling plant life, bricks and concrete. Should anyone tour the campus today, they would observe lush, well-planned landscaping, cheery red banners, and bright new umbrellas on student patios. These changes are a result of the Beautification Project, an initiative established by the Parent Faculty Association (PFA) to brighten campus and foster a positive school climate.
PFA co-President Jennifer Essigs was among the members of the community frustrated by the school’s unkempt appearance. She joined Principal Egan in a walk around the school and found many areas in need of improvement. “When we walked around, we just found garbage and trash everywhere, and we knew it didn’t look very good,” Ms. Essigs said. “After that, we decided to form a committee.” The Beautification Committee was formed with the goal of converting the school into a much more beautiful and positive learning environment.
Beautifying NCHS is a long process with a large budget. The project needed a lot of planning before the PFA could start. “We realized how much bigger the project was,” Ms. Essigs said. “It was much larger than banners and bike racks. We knew it would be tens of thousands of dollars to do.”
The committee found multiple ways to fundraise for the project. “We presented to the board of selectmen and they approved putting $20,000 in the town budget to maintain the landscaping,” Ms. Essigs said. “However, most of our funding came from an appeal we made to the community. We received $60,000 in donations, and they came from all over: grandparents, alumni, etc.”
There were many factors that went into deciding what to add to NCHS. “The scale of this was very different from anything that I’ve ever done before. It’s pretty different from what you would see in somebody’s yard,” project landscaping designer Leslie Kammerer said. “The other thing that was particularly challenging about this place was that the exposure is pretty extreme. It’s so sunny, windy, and hot here. That limits the plant choices, and it took a lot of research to figure out what was going to do well here.”
One of the goals of the project is to make places like the senior patio a more welcoming place for students. “I would use the patio more if it was more comfortable,” senior Brad Newton said.
Other students enjoy the improvement to the school atmosphere. “It’s not really that big of a deal but it’s nice to see,” junior Caroline Callahan said. “It’s that kind of thing that can brighten your day a little bit.”
PFA members believe that the project is having a positive effect on the student mindsets and learning. “I’ve had several students come up to me and say that the school looks so much better,” Ms. Essigs said. “I think it makes people feel more positive and happy when they walk into the school.”
The PFA will begin to implement stage three of the project, which includes patio upgrades and cosmetic improvements, with high hopes. “I hope that it makes people feel like the school is a more welcoming, friendlier place,” Ms. Kammerer said. “There were definitely times when we were here working where I would hear students talking about it when I walked in, and I love that.”
For more information about the Beautification Project, check out this video by Lukah Aguilera: