Utah National Guard Continues

Support of Salt Lake's Parkview Elementary

 

Written by Shad West

 

Published January 25, 2007

 

Download Printer-Friendly Version

       

 

 Rebecca Castrillon, a fifth-grader at Parkview Elementary, checks through the vast selection of goods at her school's Behavior Buck Store.

Photo by Shad West

 Rebecca Castrillon, a fifth-grader at Parkview Elementary, checks

through the vast selection of goods at her school's Behavior Buck Store.

SALT LAKE CITY — Donations made by Utah National Guard employees to a Westside elementary school are helping students learn a valuable lesson about money, and the interest is paying dividends for the community at large.

For the second year in a row the Utah Guard’s Construction Facility Management Office (CFMO) adopted Parkview Elementary School as their annual Christmas project.  In 2005, CFMO collected more than 400 books for the school’s library. This year, the office decided to support the school’s Behavior Buck Store by spearheading the collection of items that students could buy with “money” they earn with good behavior.

Parkview, a Title I school, has students who speak 17 different native languages. Their parents, many of whom are immigrants to the U.S., speak little or no English. More than 90 percent of the children enrolled are on the reduced or free-lunch program.  The Westside neighborhood is an eclectic mix of nationalities from all over the world: Sudan, Somalia, Mexico, Bosnia, Costa Rica, Italy and beyond. Parkview has become the heart of the community and its store a much needed lifeline for many students’ families.

"I think the store provides a unique way for the children to be able to purchase items for themselves or their family that they normally wouldn’t be able to,” said Mary Beverly, an administrative assistant in CFMO.

CFMO employee Elaine Gomez, right, visits with a young Parkview student Jan. 18.

Photo by Shad West

CFMO employee Elaine Gomez, right, visits

 with a young Parkview Student Jan. 18.

“It’s so nice to help give these students the opportunity to buy things for their families,” CFMO accounting technician Elaine Gomez added. “The program is a great way to encourage students to do better in school.”

The Guard collected and donated hairbrushes, lotions, watercolor paints, notebooks, magic markers, coloring books, puzzles, footballs, basketballs, jewelry and snack foods for the store.

The store itself is divided into two sections: Needs and Wants. The Needs section is stocked with school supplies, backpacks, diapers, baby wipes, baby blankets and pajamas; while the Wants half of the store is full of sports equipment, beanie babies, toys, Hacky Sacks and donated knickknacks like small jewelry boxes. 

Turning in their homework on time, helping to clean their classrooms and reinforcing the school’s values are just a few ways students can earn Behavior Bucks.  They can earn up to $100 in scholar tender for use in the store. Each student may earn a visit to the store once every six weeks.

While the store is built into the school’s math curriculum, Parkview Principal Janine Smith says it also teaches students life skills.

Col. Scot Olson, CFMO director, center, poses with Parkview Principal Janine Smith, left, and Volunteer Coordinator Judy Rausch.

Photo by Rachael Neal

Col. Scot Olson, CFMO director, center, poses with Parkview Principal Janine Smith, left, and Volunteer Coordinator Judy Rausch.

“Sometimes our students choose to save their bucks for a bigger purchase,” Smith said. What they wanted to purchase may not always be available when they have saved enough. It may have sold just like in a real store.  It’s a life lesson.”

The store is also a lifeline for many families, but school officials are quick to point out the store can only be used by students, not faculty or families. Yet, they are cognizant of the needs of the students and their families. 

“Many of our students come from families with such low incomes, yet their purchases at the store show they have such generous hearts,” said Parkview Volunteer Coordinator Judy Rausch. “These children will come into the store and might get one little thing for themselves, but quite often they come in to buy for their siblings or their parents.  These children seem to know what their families’ needs are.”

In December, students spent nearly $17,000 in the store.  Their purchases even surprised some of the faculty.

The well-worn entrance to the Behavior Buck Store at Salt Lake's Parkview Elementary.

Photo by Rachael Neal

The well-worn entrance to the Behavior Buck Store

at Salt Lake's Parkview Elementary.

“We are trying to teach so many concepts to our students,” Rausch said. “We ran out of baby pajamas, diapers and blankets. This shows we don’t need to teach them about generosity and compassion.”

It’s those actions and the attitudes of the students at Parkview that won the hearts of Guard employees who know they made the right choice to reach out to the school.

‘There are so many things about these children that impress me,” Beverly said. “They are truly appreciative of their school and of the community support they receive.”

When CFMO Deputy Director Lt. Col. Jerry Oyler accompanied Elaine Gomez and Beverly to the school last week, fifth-graders swarmed him, excited to meet a real-life Soldier. Oyler said the feeling was definitely mutual.

“It was interesting for me to just listen to the children,” Oyler said. “They come from such diverse backgrounds. There are so many different languages that are spoken and their different cultures and backgrounds. Each and every one of these students has a fascinating story.”

One student, Rebecca Castrillon, 10, says the diversity of her school is what makes it special.  She was quick to point out her own heritage, Peruvian and Iranian.

“It’s something I love to talk about,” Castrillon said. “Kids at other schools are missing out on learning about other cultures first hand.”

As for using the store, Castrillon said she works hard to earn Behavior Bucks so she can buy things for her family.

Deputy CFMO Director Lt. Col. Jerry Oyler, center,  with Parkview Elementary students Jan. 18.

Photo by Shad West

Deputy CFMO Director Lt. Col. Jerry Oyler, center,

 with Parkview Elementary students Jan. 18.

“I think it’s cool,” Castrillon said. “It’s a good chance for us to get stuff for our parents. We don’t have the money to get things from a real store.”

Castrillon recently bought her grandmother a little glass dog. She is saving to buy something for her mother and little brother and sister.  Not once did she mention saving for a trinket for herself.

Smith believes a good school will also be a community center for their neighborhood. With help from sponsors like the Utah National Guard, Parkview Elementary is able to make a difference for the students and their families.

“We are the hub of the community,” Smith said. “We are really the only safe environment for these families. They come here with their problems and they know we are the one place they can come for help. They know they can depend on us.”