Jungle murals of snakes and butterflies populating a deep blue sky encircled half the playground at Queen Anne Elementary School in Mid-City.
With brushes and signature blue T-shirts, about 60 UCLA volunteers visited the school to finish a project the UCLA Volunteer Center started earlier this year.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, UCLA volunteers spent the day adding a splash of color to the elementary school, located about 20 minutes east of campus.
“Before we came here, everything was beige,” said George Hill, a project coordinator for the Volunteer Center who worked with the school’s principal to organize the event. “Most of the schools look like institutions. They need to be more kid-friendly.”
The UCLA Volunteer Center returned to Queen Anne on Monday as a follow-up to Volunteer Day, the university’s main student philanthropy event that sends thousands of first-year and transfer students to volunteer around Los Angeles.
Volunteer Day, though the UCLA’s most publicized philanthropic event, is too short to complete projects, said Rachel Corell, director of the Volunteer Center. Corell said the center increasingly works to make a more lasting impact in the communities it works with, a process that can’t be done in one day.
“Smaller days like this are much more manageable,” Corell said.
To ensure that bigger projects are completed, the center created an organization called One Bus, One Cause in 2012 to send just a busload of volunteers to service projects that were started on Volunteer Day.
“You don’t get the same kind of recognition for all the small follow-ups, but they’re just as important,” said Keith Parker, assistant vice chancellor for UCLA Government and Community Relations, as he wiped blue paint off his hands.
Volunteers Monday extended an intricate jungle theme around the school’s playground, covering cement blocks with leopards and hummingbirds. The pattern is bright and fun, but is also meant to be a tool for the students to familiarize themselves with different types of animals and plants, Hill said.
About 10 transfer students attended the event as the kickoff for Transfer Pride Week. UCLA Alumni Mentor Program as well as UCLA Alumni’s Diversity Programs made up a bulk of the volunteers.
Second-year nursing student Lauren Mingee met her mentor, 2012 graduate Lindsey Tucker, for the first time at the event. Between painting grassy backdrops, they were able to get to know each other and talk about Mingee’s life as a UCLA nursing student.
Some of the UCLA volunteers said they were motivated by Martin Luther King Jr. to spend the day giving back to their community.
Soleil Delgadillo, who graduated from UCLA with degrees in sociology and women’s studies in 2009, felt like the event was both relaxing and rewarding.
“I’m a school and college counselor so I know how important it is to make a school an enjoyable place to be,” Delgadillo said.
Though volunteers completed the murals, UCLA’s work with the elementary school is not over. Volunteers plan to return to add more color to the rest of the school and will visit two other schools this month.