Bryant Middle School 'transformed' by day of service

Volunteers work to make improvements at one of S.L.'s most diverse campuses

Published: Sunday, Aug. 14 2011 11:49 p.m. MDT

Workers install a new dance floor. Fidelity Investments employee volunteers from the Utah regional center and Salt Lake Education Foundation, team up to conduct a day of service at the Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With the scorching sun bearing down, Joe McElaney had traded his desk job for some work gloves Saturday to help spruce up an outdoor classroom at Bryant Middle School.

Inside, his wife and daughter were sorting costumes and accessories in the school auditorium while their sons taught lacrosse to Bryant students on a nearby field.

Welcome to Transformation Day, a day of service among Fidelity Investment's Utah regional center employees, the Salt Lake Education Foundation and school employees.

McElaney said the day of service helps Fidelity employees feel a deeper connection to the community where they work and to Bryant, one of the city's most diverse middle schools. It also enables the McElaneys, who moved to Utah from Boston six years ago, to teach their children the importance of giving back.

"I love this," McElaney said. "This is my passion."

While he worked outside, his wife, Lisa, was among a group of about 20 people who organized the contents of a jam-packed closet that held costumes, hats and other accessories for the school's drama program. Items were sorted into neatly labeled tubs, designated for repairs or discard.

"We can see the floor (of the auditorium stage) now. I just can't get over that all of this stuff was in one closet," Lisa McElaney said.

Outside, eighth-grade science teacher Jacqueline Morasco directed traffic as a bevy of volunteers spruced up and rearranged her outdoor classroom, which includes a greenhouse and large planting boxes.

"It's all about change," Morasco said regarding her class curriculum. "I don't just grow things. We learn about solar energy, wind energy and alternative forms of energy and how things change."

Morasco said that Fidelity volunteers ask her what she wants and figure out how they can help her achieve her goals.

"And they're really excited to be here. This morning, they were in the cafeteria, going, 'When are we going to get started?' " she said.

Fidelity Investment has a long tradition of serving the community and an ongoing relationship with Bryant Middle School, where more than 30 languages are spoken.

"It's really interesting to have a school like this three blocks from the governor's mansion. It certainly speaks to the diverse nature of the cultures here," said Charlie Lansche, vice president of public affairs for Fidelity Investment.

This was the second Transformation Day at Bryant Middle School. Volunteers also installed a new "sprung" floor in the school dance room, painted a world map on the school's exterior and placed motivational messages along walls and hallways.

"The volunteer efforts have improved our building and grounds, but more importantly, invigorated our students' sense of school pride," said principal Frances Battle. "We're honored by Fidelity's dedication and commitment to our students and grateful for its efforts throughout the school year."

Some Fidelity employees are regular volunteers at the school, providing weekly one-on-one tutoring sessions, coaching the school's chess team and conducting sports camps.

But on Saturday, most of the 130 volunteers were getting their hands dirty. Russ Hunsaker and about 10 other Fidelity employees installed a floor in Bryant's dance classroom.

"It's a lot of fun. It's nice to get away from the desk and do something with your hands," he said. "When the kids come in, you get to see their eyes light up."

Email: marjorie@desnews.com

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