The Foundation Has Been Laid: Helping the Community That Made Me Who I Am

By Stanley Walker

Stan WalkerIn 1969, I first walked up the steps to Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. The steps were strong, sturdy, and built on a foundation of community, love, and support. I was so excited to be able to go to school like the other kids in the neighborhood, more importantly being able to walk with my older brother and sister. It was a great feeling. At five years old, I felt like I was finally growing up by being able to walk up those steps and enter the school as a real Horace Mann student.

For the next eight years, I would be in a learning environment filled with knowledge, wisdom, and street smarts. Day in and day out, I would be in the presence of the best teachers, smartest students, and of course, some of the greatest athletes in the area.Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.

On Sept. 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to walk up the steps of hope again. However, it was under different circumstances. The Environmental Protection Agency was awarding Kansas City, Mo., a grant to help communities such as the Ivanhoe Neighborhood revitalize that area.

Although the school has been torn down, the bricks have been saved and are being reused on the site. Saving the bricks serves as another symbol for me. The bricks have endured strong winds, blisteringly hot summers, and bitterly cold winters. Like the bricks, many folks in the community have endured the various seasons of life. You can sometimes see the chips and scars left by the seasons on the faces of the community. However, the strength for the community to get up one more time from the poverty, urban flight, crime, and neglect reminds me how Evander Holyfield stormed back after taking a vicious punch from Riddick Bowe. I watch the community get back on its feet before the count of 10 with the addition of the Aldi’s store on 39th and Prospect, and the duplexes being built to replace the school.

While at the celebration, someone Stan Walker poses for photofound a piece of an old chalkboard. It evoked memories of being able to go up to the board and work a problem in front of my class, which was a real honor. For almost 50 years, there were a couple of pillars like Mrs. Margaret May who kept the foundation strong and pieced it back together when it began to crumble. As I stood next to her on that September day, I could not thank her enough for preserving the foundation of a strong community. Much of who I was, who I am, and who I will become will still come back to the foundation built by Horace Mann Elementary School.

About the Author: Stanley Walker manages the Superfund Technical Assistance and Reuse Branch at EPA Region 7. 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Recycling at MorningSide

Colton picture

Hi my name is Colton, I’m 10 years old and I go to MorningSide Elementary. I got interested in recycling at home. We have been recycling as long as I can remember. When I was in first grade Ms. DeFranza talked to us about starting a recycling program. I’ve been doing it ever since. I also try to think of new ways to reuse things. At MorningSide we recycle paper, plastic and ink cartridges. I would like to talk to our principal about starting to recycle cans next.

My parents are really proud that I got involved in recycling at school. We all can help save the planet! I think when I grow up I’d like to be in animal research or engineering and design.

I have even gotten some of my friends involved in recycling at school! My little brother has started working with me and we recycle things at home.  What do you recycle at your school?

Colton is a 4th grade student at Morningside Elementary.  He enjoys reading, hanging out with his friends, and watching a good hockey game!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Be Healthy and Alert!

Cough, cough! That’s the sound of you being sick. That’s why here at Bethesda Elementary School we have a special system. Have you ever seen colorful flags outside on your school’s flagpole? If you haven’t, we’re here to tell you what they are and what they mean.

First, we are going to tell you how the system works. Every day we check the school website to check the quality of the air. A colored flag is put up on the flagpole to alert the students about the air quality for the day.   The green flag means the air outside is good and clean and it is safe for you to play outside! You want the flag to be green all the time  The yellow flag is not as good as the green flag. The air is not as clean. When we see that flag it means it is nice enough to play outside but not perfect.

Oh look! The orange flag is flying! That means the air is not clean enough to be safe for some people, including kids like us. It is okay to play outside but we have to rest more. Ugh! If you see a red flag, it means the air is full of pollution. Pollution comes from factories and cars. We can still play outside but we should not run around as much. 

Oh no, the purple flag is flying!  On a purple flag day you should think before you plan to go outside. This color tells us that the air is the dirtiest of all. You should not play outside at all. We know- not cool, right? You don’t get to run around outside, but you will be safe inside. You don’t want to get sick, do you? That’s what we thought. The air is very polluted and unhealthy for us.

Did you know that there is less pollution today than there was years ago? We are doing a good job with reducing pollution. But it is still a problem and that is one reason the flag system is important. We are glad we have the system at our school to help keep us safe and healthy!   To learn more about the School Flag Program, visit www.airnow.gov/schoolflag.

Jazmin and Guadalupe are 5th graders at Bethesda Elementary School in Durham, NC. Jazmin enjoys playing basketball and soccer and recently set an all time high record for running laps in the gym. Guadalupe is excited about becoming a sixth grader and likes being outside where she participates in many outdoor activities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.