Before starting his senior year at John Hardin High School, Caleb Fitzgerald spent last week helping at his former elementary school, New Highland.
“It been pretty good because I went here and it’s giving back to the school that helped you become a teenager and adult,” said Fitzgerald, who is a quarterback on the John Hardin football team.
Fitzgerald said he wants to be a good role model for New Highland students. He told the school’s librarian, Amanda Urbahns, he’ll come back Thursday in his uniform to greet students on the first day of school.
Fitzgerald was one of several John Hardin students who helped at New Highland on the final days of their summer break. Students rearranged the library, helped in classrooms and painted a new mural in the school office.
A floor-to-ceiling mural of Bulldog puppies will greet students and families when they stop by the office. The mural highlights a school motto, “Excellence through Education.”
John Hardin seniors Meg Slatton, Sierra Lutz and Jacob Maddox designed and painted the mural. They said the project took about a week, including the design.
The trio recently finished a large “Bulldog Nation” mural at John Hardin in one of the hallways. The John Hardin painting featured a large Bulldog along with the school’s mantra, “Family, Respect, Success.”
Slatton said they wanted the New Highland mural to be more “kiddish.” One of the puppies is tugging at another’s ear.
“We didn’t want it to be too busy,” Slatton said. “Simple but cute.”
Slatton said they wanted to have a colorful background to match the school, noting other murals throughout the school.
Slatton, Lutz and Maddox left their mark by signing their names on the painting.
“It’s crazy,” Lutz said. “We left a legacy.”
Maddox said they hoped the mural would create Bulldog school spirit.
“We want to continue that in each school,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he hopes he showed New Highland students that volunteering and giving back to the community still is a good thing to do.
“I’m showing them that I didn’t forget about who helped me,” he said.
During his week or so at the school, Fitzgerald helped change the music room into a new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math classroom.
“We made it not look like a music room,” he said.
Another change for New Highland students will be the library’s new layout. By moving shelves and a desk, the students opened up floor space.
“We now can have two classes in here at once,” said Urbahns, who is in her first year as New Highland librarian.
She said the layout hadn’t changed in many years.
“It can be anything now,” Urbahns said. “It opened up opportunities.”
Fitzgerald and other students, many of whom are John Hardin football players, had to take every book off the shelves. Moving different shelves around required six people, Urbahns said.
They also moved her desk to another area. Urbahns credited Jerren Morning, youth service center coordinator at Bluegrass Middle School, with bringing in the football players. Morning previously coached at John Hardin.
Jamyah Babers, a seventh-grader at Bluegrass Middle School and her sister, Jayea Babers, a New Highland fifth-grader also helped with the library.
Urbahns said the students didn’t seem to mind the grunt work.
“They want to be here,” she said.
Urbahns said it’s helpful for teachers and students to see older students helping out.
“They just care,” she said.