Mobilizing Youth and Volunteers to Transform a Local High School

Students and John Deere volunteers work together to improve educational environment at A.J. Renner school

new school walkway
The new covered walkway, made possible by a $10,000 grant from the John Deere Foundation, allows students to access the renovated gymnasium during inclement weather.

Felipe Batista Miranda is one of 542 students of A.J. Renner High School, located in the city of Montenegro in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. When Felipe first started attending high school three years ago, the physical infrastructure and the conditions of the school were not so good. The school’s courtyard and recreational facilities had not been maintained for some time--the gymnasium had broken windows where cold wind and rain often rendered the gym unusable. The gym also was not connected to the school and so without a covered walk-way, students and teachers would often get wet and subsequently sick.

paintingHowever, the infrastructure was not the school's only problem. There was a general lack of school spirit and involvement among the student population and the wider community. "School is like our second home, but many things had to be changed. Until recently the students were not motivated to help and improve the situation. There was little participation," explains Felipe.

In 2018, Global Communities Brazil began working with the school and the local community to tackle the challenge of transforming A.J. Renner. Through the Sowing the Future program, a partnership with the John Deere Foundation, Global Communities began to mobilize and train the company's employees to encourage their volunteer participation. Global Communities also began to educate students, parents and staff about the importance of empowerment, participation, and volunteer work.

That was when Felipe, who had never volunteered before, saw first-hand the power of volunteerism. He was amazed to see the transformation of his school as a result of the collaboration of students, parents, staff and with the support of John Deere volunteers. Together, they joined forces and turned the A.J. Renner school into a more comfortable, inviting and safe space.

The first task was to improve and upgrade the courtyard. This was a multi-stage effort. First they focused on cleaning up the area—an effort organized by the school and local community. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the John Deere Foundation, a local contractor installed new, reinforced windows in the gymnasium, built a covered walkway from the school to the gym, installed new basketball backboards and rims, and improved the steps leading into and out of the school.  Lastly, John Deere volunteers took the lead on having everything painted, including the gym floors and walls and the outdoor soccer/basketball courts.  The combined teamwork resulted in a beautiful, inviting and cozy space, which is now the perfect space for games, sports competitions and other activities.

cleaning up courtyardPaulo Rohde, Director of Operations at John Deere in Montenegro noted the amazing amount of collaboration and participation among students and parents in the activities. "Here we see the engagement of students and families who want a better school. Our challenge is to bring more parents and students and all friends of the school for that matter," he said. Rohde also pointed out that while it is not always easy to engage volunteers, the school managed to mobilize many volunteers for this project demonstrating the power of volunteerism and community engagement. "This action is the proof that together we can do more. Volunteering is not a one-time activity, it is a project without end," he reinforced.

As for the students, according to Felipe, they are thrilled with their new school environment. But beyond the physical changes, there is the feeling of accomplishment and pride. They now have the understanding and knowledge that voluntary work can generate even more positive changes.

"Now we are proud of our school. We look forward to inviting other schools to compete in the interclass championships here. On behalf of all the students, we would like to thank everyone who participated in the project. We have seen parents, staff, students and volunteers give up their free time to be here helping transform our school. Today, I see more motivated and empowered students," he said.

Indicators:

  • 419 volunteer hours
  • 100 youth participants
  • 542 direct beneficiaries

As a result of the project, more than 100 students volunteered contributing more than 400 volunteer hours to improve and beautify their school.  At the same time, the momentum of mobilization continues to have a lasting impact on the young people involved. With the materials left over the students have planned and carried out an additional beautification project in the school’s courtyard and now a nice space where they can meet and relax. But their ambitions do not stop there. Next the students and volunteers at A.J. Renner want plan to install a robotics room, which will be used for science and technology classes along with reactivating the school’s student council.

Serving Our Communities

The infrastructure improvements made at the A.J. Renner School were made possible through a $10,000 "Serving Our Communities" grant, which is John Deere Foundation initiative that aims to encourage volunteering in the localities where the company operates. In 2017, the initiative brought together more than 5,300 John Deere employees to engage in volunteer activities in 40 cities around the world.