The Los Angeles Rams held a day of service at Warren Lane Elementary School in Inglewood, to assist with a school beautification project. Rams wide receiver Paul McRoberts was joined by team cheerleaders and staff, parents from the elementary school and several volunteers from the Inglewood community to help paint and landscape the school’s exterior.
“I wanted to come down here and show my support because I know what it’s like as a child growing up in not such a great area,” said the St. Louis native, McRoberts. He reminisced of participating at his local community center and how much of an impact it had on his childhood. “I loved it, being in the garden, getting dirty and having fun with my friends.”
Each month, the Rams’ front office staff coordinates volunteer activities and events with various community programs and schools utilizing Sharefest, a local nonprofit that helps with school and park beautification efforts.
“When I first came here it was literally a blank canvas of yellow, so we sat down with the principal and the Rams and the school district and we heard that they wanted to rebrand the school since it is turning into an academy of the arts,” said Chad Mayer, executive director of Sharefest.
As a result of the conversion to an academy of the arts, all parties thought it was important that the school’s physical image reflect the change.
“Our students deserve coming to a beautiful building, an establishment, and organization that promotes growth and progress that’s beautiful,” remarked Dr. Jacqueline Sanderlin, director of School and Community Relations for the Inglewood Unified School District. “We believe that when they see this, they know that they deserve it and it raises school and community pride.”
The transformation includes murals that highlight music, dance and academics as volunteers painted “Warren Lane Academy of the Arts”, which participants hope will highlight the school’s new designation.
“The community is beautiful, let’s have a school that matches it to send our babies,” said Steve Donahue, the school’s principal. “We all want to be proud of this.”
Donahue has only been the school’s principal since July of this year. He says it was paramount for the school to form an identity and the arts seemed like the perfect fit, especially when so many urban area schools are cutting out electives like the arts.
“It’s the only school I know where pre-kindergarteners are holding instruments, so when they’re done in 6th grade, they will have had seven years of playing an instrument,” Donahue said proudly. “This is truly an arts school. Arts is integrated into instruction.” He noted that the feedback from the parents has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ll be honest, I am here because it would make my mother and father very happy to see what’s happening right now,” current parent Sharae O’Dell stated. All four of her children have attended Warren Lane. She graduated from Warren Lane K-8th school making her a legacy parent.
“My father, Chris Martin, lived on 81st street for 40 years,” O’Dell remembers. “Before he even had us in school, he was coming around here making sure everything was okay at this school.”
O’Dell has picked up where her father left off. She shared that her family went through a period of transition where they were homeless because they had to sell their house not far from the school. Warren Lane has been a safe haven for both her and her children. Her son, Aaron Ector, who graduated from Warren Lane last year, played piano and saxophone as a student and played for his siblings.
“This is taking you beyond your circumstance and saying, where we started and where we can go, they are not the same,” said O’Dell with tears in her eyes. “It doesn’t matter where we started, we have no limits, no boundaries, we’re going up and then up higher. This school is the beginning of greatness.”
O’Dell went on to graduate from UCLA and despite the trials that life has thrown her family’s way, she says this school has remained steadfast.
“That’s a success story from our community,” said Inglewood Councilman George Dotson.
According to Rams Vice President of Community Relations, Molly Higgins, it remains the goal of the Rams to supports schools by donating resources and time to have more success stories like O’Dell.
“We’re a sports team, but we appreciate and understand the impact that all disciplines can have on students upbringing and being just well-rounded individuals,” mused Higgins. “We’re fortunate to have an awesome locker room of guys who are passionate about this community.”
Wide receiver McRoberts is but one example of the Rams’ players to spend a day off giving back to the community. He took pictures with parents, volunteers and helped paint the murals. His efforts to connect with the community did not go unnoticed.
“They don’t have to do this,” said Councilman Dotson. “It has to be something that comes from within them. Someone in this organization has a heart.”
During the team’s first year since making Los Angeles home, Rams employees provided more than 2,000 hours of community service and impacted 10 local nonprofits and 19 schools. Since January of 2017, the team has volunteered with six local nonprofits and 25 schools through the Staff Day of Service program.
The goal of raising school and community pride was said to be accomplished by all parties involved. Dr. Sanderlin concluded the day of service by expressing, “We believe that Inglewood has been rising, but now we’re moving towards another level where we all have a dream, and if we believe it, we certainly believe we can achieve it.”