The pride of the Pueblo Gardens community emanated from their schoolyard on a crisp Fall morning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The mayor, councilmembers and supervisors were on hand to applaud students from Pueblo Gardens K-8 for their efforts in working with Living Streets Alliance to create a true safe route to school for their peers.
The first step was defining the route, a process Living Streets Alliance helped Pueblo Gardens with a year ago during their annual Walktober event. Members of the nonprofit and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild walked alongside Pueblo Gardens students, parents, teachers and administrators from the Holmes Tuttle Boys & Girls Club down the street to the school in effort to outline a safe route for students to walk and bike to school.
Then came the challenge.
Living Streets Alliance met with Pueblo Gardens students earlier this year to develop murals and artwork that would adorn their route. The plan was to earn a grant put forth by KaBoom! which would provide the necessary funds to put the plan in motion. KaBoom! awarded the grant to Pueblo Gardens over submissions from all around the country.
"We sent the students home with questionnaires that they could ask their [family], 'What makes you proud about being from Pueblo Gardens?'" explained muralist Porter McDonald, a Pueblo Gardens resident. "Most important, they came up with these stories about the community coming together and making up a neighborhood."
In his speech thanking the community for their efforts, McDonald wiped away tears as he read his poem created from the stories submitted by the students. The poem touched heavily on family, community, and the development of subdivisions similar to Pueblo Gardens at the end of WWII.
The event really hit home for Living Streets Alliance member Vanessa Cascio, who grew up in the neighborhood. "I actually went to school here... and so it's really awesome to come back and be part of this community and do something that I never got to do as a kid," she remarked.
Vanessa went on to discuss her interactions with students to the audience, namely with one girl who was responsible for one of two intersection designs. The student told Vanessa the design was a flower with different colored petals which fit together to create something beautiful and that it reminded her of her classmates at Pueblo Gardens.
When Vanessa asked the same student what she learned from the project, the student discussed how there were truly good people in her school and in her community. "I get choked up saying that, but I mean, that's amazing!" Vanessa exclaimed with a smile.
The impact of the project was felt by more than just the students. As Porter summarized, "I've met so many people from the neighborhood, learned so much more about the history of the neighborhood and to be a part of this project, it makes me never want to leave.