By Courtney DockAugust 31, 2012
The new doors open wide. Students and parents walk in, some wide awake and excited, others looking very tired.
"It looks like the future," exclaims one child. In reality, it is the future -- the future of approximately 350 students starting their first day of school at Ambidon-Bowden Elementary School in Southwest Washington, D.C.
Members of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall staff, along with other community partners, were on hand to welcome students into the school as part of a partners in education program in southwest D.C. The intent of the program is to help start the year off with strong support from the community for the students, the majority of whom come from low-income homes.
Deputy Joint Base Commander Lt. Col. Jennifer Blair and interim Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Jessup handed out Army pencils and Marine Corps stickers to the children. School Liaison Officer Ann Daffin coordinated donations of backpacks with school supplies for distribution to the students this year. Blair and Jessup made sure to motivate the young children, and future recruits, on their first day of school.
Destiny Khalil, 10, helped Blair and Jessup raise the American flag before the school day. The new 5th grader was excited and nervous to get back to Amidon-Bowen.
"I like learning new things," said Destiny. She said her favorite class was dance because "it's good exercise."
Over the summer, the school went through a major makeover. PTA President Martin Welles said the $5 million renovation began June 17, with phase one of the renovations complete just in time for the Aug. 27 opening day.
"The school has really changed," said Welles. "Sixty days. That's the miracle of all of this. This is like a brand new school."
Renovations include a new lobby, classrooms and color scheme. Welles said enrollment is up 15 percent in the school. One of the newly enrolled students is Marine Staff Sgt. Robert Marquez's son, David. David, 5, started kindergarten this year.
"We got base housing here at Fort McNair, so that put us here for school," said the elder Marquez. "We got housing approved on the 16th [of August]. So last Thursday we applied here."
The Marquez Family was quick to join in the community. Two days after applying to the school, Marquez had already joined the school's volunteer beautification committee. By the end of the day, he wasn't just helping move logs, he had become a member of the PTA.
Welles explained to Marquez's wife Yvette, "I recruited your husband to help with the PTA. He said, 'What can I do to help?' I said, 'Well…'"
"Vice president of the PTA," Marquez exclaimed to his wife. "YAY!"
Children raced through the hallways, excited to see their friends from last year. But all of them were excited to see the new additions to the school.
"Everything looks like the future," said Mylikah Sullivan, 7, who started the 3rd grade. "I like this. I'm so surprised. Everything is all new. I like it all."