For this year’s ThurtenE Carnival, Beta Theta Pi and Kappa Delta, paired for the first time in the construction of a facade, have decided to redefine the purpose behind their fundraising and take a tangible approach toward making an impact within the community.
The proceeds from their collective fundraising as well as the money raised during the carnival itself, hosted from April 17-19, will be going toward the construction of a playground, outdoor classroom and community garden at Farragut Elementary School, located in the Greater Ville neighborhood of St. Louis. The visibility of this goal, its direct relevance to Washington University students as members of the St. Louis community, and the opportunity for Beta and KD involvement through construction on the school grounds are innovative for ThurtenE philanthropy. This will also be Kappa Delta’s first year participating in ThurtenE.
In the summer of 2012, a group of local teens set fire to the Farragut Elementary playground, burning it down completely and leaving students with only an empty expanse of blacktop and a basketball court without any hoops for recess. Many students who attend Farragut come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with over 85 percent receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
While recess imparts the obvious benefits of physical activity to combat growing obesity problems, it is also true that recess can help students feel more engaged, safer and positive about the school day, according to Stanford University research.
Junior Frances Fuqua, who as ThurtenE Overall for Kappa Delta is in charge of running lot construction and overseeing the chapter’s play and outreach, explained, “When we began discussing the idea of participating in ThurtenE, the majority of women in our chapter decided that if we did, it would need to be something that would make a measurable impact on our community. We thought a great way to do that would be to find a project that we could build from the ground up and actually see the before and after. We were lucky that Beta had a similar vision.”
Senior Ellee Mullard, the ThurtenE design and outreach chair for Kappa Delta, discovered the need at Farragut. She works for the Alberti program through the Sam Fox School, teaching students in third through 12th grades basic architecture principles and helping them design their own projects during Saturday sessions; a number of the students attend Farragut Elementary.
Gay Lorberbaum, the director of the Alberti program, recommended Farragut to Mullard as a potential opportunity for community outreach. Once Mullard contacted Farragut’s principal, she knew the school would be the perfect match for what both Kappa Delta and Beta were looking for in their choice of philanthropy.
Mullard said, “The principal basically told me, ‘Our school just needs help in general.’ I expressed that we wanted to do something construction-based because of the connection to ThurtenE and the facades and also so that, in the end, we can really see the difference that we would make.”
In this semester’s first Alberti meeting, the design project for the students was to “create your dream playground.” About 25 of the students attending the program go to Farragut, so Mullard announced afterward that a group of Wash. U. students would actually be building Farragut a new playground. The students, especially the youngest ones, were extremely excited about the potential to enjoy recess with a full playground.
While the principal was skeptical at first about Beta and Kappa Delta’s commitment to this large goal, she is now enthusiastic having seen the planning and effort put in by both chapters so far as well as the money already fundraised. The goal is $15,000 in total by the end of ThurtenE. Since activating a gofundme page, the students have raised close to $5,700 as of printing.
By the end of this week, the two chapters will have sent out 300 letters explaining the purpose of the Farragut project as well as the history of the school to potential donors and asking for their support.
The goal is for construction of the playground, the outdoor classroom and the community garden to be completed before ThurtenE so that part of KD and Beta’s ThurtenE play will reveal what the two chapters have achieved. Fuqua hopes the students from Farragut can come to the carnival and see the play as well.
Although the weather right now is not ideal for construction, members of both chapters will be going to the school to paint murals on the inside walls as early as a couple weeks from now, with the help of Farragut students. While KD and Beta will have a presence at the carnival, construction on the lot is of secondary importance, with the primary emphasis right now on helping the students at Farragut.
Senior Satchel Siegel, the ThurtenE Overall for Beta, explained, “Hopefully what we’re doing raises awareness about resource utilization. Ideally these are first-step changes that can have lasting, positive impacts in the local community.”
The new playground and community garden, as well as the installation of specific additions like a new kickball diamond and basketball hoops, will not only improve students’ recess experiences, the organizers said. These additions also will enhance after-school activities for the students who attend Farragut and anyone else in the community who may utilize the area for sports or recreation on the weekends or in the summer.
Many of the people who attend the carnival, moreover, live in the surrounding community. With this connection in mind, “It’s nice to be able to say that we actually did something for them and with them, too, to help St. Louis as a whole,” Fuqua said.