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Missionary group paints preschool

High school students visit Navajo reservation for facility makeover

Posted: May 15, 2009 7:24 p.m.
Updated: May 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Melissa Selva starts painting the preschool. Originally a bleak white and brown building, the kids turned the worn-out building into an eye-catching canary-yellow school.

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“The kids, preschoolers, were amazed,” Ian Fletcher said, as he reminisced about the mission trip he took over spring break, April 4 to 10.  “I heard one whisper, ‘Is that our school?’  Their bus pulled up to the school, and I know some of the kids thought it was the wrong school.  We had done so much painting. When they left, their school was white and brown, and now their school was a bright yellow.”

Fletcher was one of eight youths and three counselors from the First Presbyterian Church in Newhall who went on the mission trip to the Navajo reservation in Arizona.

He explained how he and his friends worked to make a difference in the lives of the students.

“I saw the excitement in the eyes of the children when they first saw their newly painted school,” Fletcher said. “We had just finished painting the front of the school, and that is what they saw.  It looked like a new school to them.”  

Fletcher’s feeling was shared by Megan Bullock.  

“The preschool no longer had dull drab white and brown flaky walls,” she said.  “It was a beautiful bright yellow. The children loved the color.”

The work group consisted of eight high school students: Fletcher, Bullock, Ashley Karzin, Shay Stokes, Melissa Selva, Bree Price, Christopher Howell and Leo Vannini.

Sarah Bolin, Heather Hoogendyk and John Hoogendyk headed the group.

John Hoogendyk characterized the group as hardworking and dedicated.

“They went on the trip to help people, and they did just that,” John Hoogendyk said.  

Starting out on early Saturday morning on April 4, the van loaded with the First Presbyterian youth group headed east towards Shonto, Ariz., to a Navajo reservation that spans parts of four states.

The teen missionaries lived at the New Testament Indian Gospel Church, an Indian-run church, during the trip.

The minister from the church, James Tate, identified work projects needed within the community.

The group was assigned to paint the Shonto Head Start Preschool — about 2,000 square feet of exterior walls.

John Hoogendyk said the group spent the first day scraping the cracked and peeling paint off the cinder block walls of the preschool.

“I don’t think it had been painted for 20 years or more,” John Hoogendyk said. “The building looked dilapidated, and in fact the school was closed until the septic tank and electrical lines for the school could be rebuilt. Repainting the school was the last project needed in order for the school to stay open.”

After scraping the walls of the preschool clean, a primer was painted onto the worst places on the walls, and then the work crew painted the drab walls a canary yellow and the trim a sky blue.

“They did an awesome job,” John Hoogendyk said. Because of high winds, the work crew was not able to finish painting the whole preschool, but Hoogendyk stated they painted more than three-quarters of the preschool.  

“The next mission group was going to finish the job,” John Hoogendyk said.  “The kids were unhappy they couldn’t finish, but on their last day, the wind was blowing paint off the brushes.”

Returning late Friday evening on April 10, the kids piled out of the van tired and sleepy, but their feelings about the trip were echoed by Howell’s parting statement: “I would do this again and again,” he said. “For once, I helped others, and I was not concerned with myself.  It was great.”

Teresa Howell is a member of the outreach committee at the First Presbyterian Church at Newhall.

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