By Kendra Wood, NCCU Senior
In recent years at E.K. Powe Elementary, the school’s exterior had fallen into a state that did not reflect what was happening inside, as test scores rose anda devoted staff worked to foster a better learning environment. Older cracked sidewalks, overgrown shrubbery and rotting wooden logs were often the first impression for visitors to the beloved neighborhood school.
That’s what Phail Wynn, Jr., Duke’s Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs, saw when he visited E.K. Powe last summer. So he made sure the school received a facelift with the help of Duke and the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. Wynn arranged for his office tosupport projects that improved the landscape, replaced old sidewalks and trimmed trees and shrubbery, so the overall curb appeal of the school was transformed.
David Stein, Duke’s Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, helped coordinate the projects. For one thing, he suggested that the school add tile murals similar to those at N.C. School of Science and Math. E.K. Powe art teacher Malcom Goff came up with the concept of a mural with tiles representing North Carolina’s landscape from the mountains to the sea. With the help of 300 E.K. Powe students, over half of the project was done in the three weeks at the end of the school year.
“I believe Duke’s community outreach is outstanding, and it has enabled us to do some projects that involved the students,” said Jeanne Bishop, E.K. Powe principal. “The children will always remember that they had a part in improving the curb appeal at E.K. Powe.”
Stein also asked Duke’s Facilities Management Department to help. They created a vertical tree lawn with the help of a local landscape architect. Some trees and shrubs were placed in different locations on the schoolyard.
And because the shade of the large willow oak tree that sits in front of E.K. Powe caused the plants and grass under it to die, the architect suggested that large boulder rocks be placed in the area. These boulders will be placed in the schoolyard in the next phase of the facelift process and will serve as another place the students can play or even site for outside learning.
Last year’s improvements are not the first projects completed at E.K. Powe with support from the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. The school’s decor also bears the Duke mark: The pictures showing life at E.K. Powe and now lining the walls inside the school were taken by a Duke photographer and Duke students about a year ago, and the banners that hang at the main entrance of E.K. Powe were created as part of the Seesaw Project sponsored by the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.
Check out more photos of Goff’s class and of E.K. Powe’s new look.
Kendra is a senior mass communications major at North Carolina Central University. She worked in the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs this summer as part of a Duke-NCCU communications internship program coordinated through Duke University’s Office of News and Communications.