Cats in the Community Day: UA Volunteers ‘Make Over’ Sewell Elementary, March 5

Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 8:00am to 4:00pm
TUCSON, Ariz. – During Cats in the Community Day, more than 350 volunteers from the University of Arizona will assemble at Sewell Elementary School to refurbish and revitalize its facilities. 
 
Last fall, the UA selected Sewell Elementary, 425 N. Sahuara Ave., as its partner for this year’s Cats in the Community Day, an annual tradition that enlists members of the campus community to help a local non-profit organization in need.
 
Sewell Elementary boasts an “Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA)” program, which integrates the arts to teach children math, science, reading, writing, social studies and other subject areas. Students at Sewell are exposed to the symphony in kindergarten, learn about opera in first grade, focus on dance and movement in second grade, learn how to play the recorder in third grade, practice violin in the orchestra in fourth grade and take up an instrument in the band in fifth grade. However, Sewell's budget has been cut by about 21 percent in the past two years, and the school saw its population grow to about 325 students this year after 25 families affected by the closure of Duffy Elementary School relocated their students there, said Kerry Varga, principal of Sewell. “Like any other district school, you always have budget cuts, and we're always looking for partnerships,” Varga said. “The UA has stepped up and done some great things.”
 
UA volunteers will help plant a sustainable garden, paint, build display boards for student artwork, renovate the Sewell library and more. UA art students are designing murals to brighten up the school’s walls. The Ben’s Bells team is leading a mosaic project, constructing a mural from tiles based on the theme of kindness created by the Sewell students. “We’ve been around 50 years, so we need a facelift, if you will,” Varga said. The UA also has helped the school connect with other community organizations. For example, the UA helped Sewell connect with the Ben’s Bells Project, which allowed students to help make Ben's Bells, which are hung randomly around the community twice a year to spread the message of kindness.
 
Cats in the Community works to connect its partners with resources that help them beyond one day of University volunteering, said Holly Altman, director of outreach and community partnerships for the UA Office of Community Relations. Last year, the project partnered with the Wildcat School, a non-profit charter middle school associated with the UA. Other past partners include the Primavera Foundation in 2008 and the Tucson Urban League’s Project YES in 2009.
 
CONTACT:               Holly Altman, UA Office of Community Relations, (520) 626-4671
                                  Cats in the Community Day: www.catsinthecommunity.arizona.edu