Drury students land grant, transform unkempt courtyard


NORTH ADAMS — They came, they saw, and they renovated.

A Drury High School courtyard has been transformed from an unkempt, unattractive campus eyesore to a lovely landscaped area because a contingent of eager students chose to make a difference.

Twins Emily and Hannah Eichorn, 15, assisted with the cleanup and construction.

"It looked like [a mess]," Emily Eichorn said. "We made it look good.'

"The project was good and now it's awesome," her sister added.

The two were among about 23 students devoting time to the project. Of the total, 15 spent most of their spare time preparing the site while eight others served "part-time," said project co-coordinator and teacher Melanie Rancourt.

Rancourt, who teaches Activities of Daily Living math classes at the high school, said she was approached in early May by student Amy Jennings, who needed to come up with a project as part of her Drury TV curriculum. D-TV is broadcast school-wide on school Channel 68.

Teacher and student brainstormed and Jennings decided to videotape interviews with students and teachers about the rundown courtyard, and whether the school population thought the space should be utilized.

The majority of teachers and students believed the site had potential. After Jennings' interview tape was shown on the D-TV network in early May, some of Rancourts students and students of teacher Michelle Darling's academics class decided to take action.

"We heard that throughout the school, people thought that something should be done with the courtyard," Rancourt said. "So we wrote a community service learning grant and we were awarded a community service learning mini-grant. We called it the 'Cultivating the Courtyard' grant."

The $300 grant was spent on items such as mulch, landscaping fabric, and other needed items. Work began on May 16 and concluded on Monday.

Students gathered river rocks and painted them, and arranged them along the small courtyard path. The red-hued mulch was raked over the landscaping fabric and the benches were added. Flowers were planted as well as a small vegetable garden. Two benches were installed and, as artists sign their work, one large display rock was signed by participating students.

When students ran short of supplies, school custodian Matthew Neville stepped in and gave the students additional mulch and another roll of landscape fabric, Rancourt said.

"He went above and beyond for this," she said. "He figured out how to get the kids what they needed."

Rancourt said that current plans are for students enrolled in high school summer programs to care for the vegetable garden and harvest any produce. The produce will be donated to local food pantries.

Twin brothers Isaiah and Elijah Davis, 17, said that they are glad that the students tackled the courtyard challenge.

"It turned out awesome,' Isaiah said. "It took two and half weeks to do this, and we just got it done. I hope it gets maintained, when I come back for high school reunions, I would like to see this, or even a better version of this."

"This is our legacy and it's something everybody can enjoy," Elijah Davis said.

"This definitely looks a lot better than it did," said Nathan Piantoni, 17. "It makes me feel good that friends and family that come to school here after me will see what I did here. And that makes me feel good."


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