Donation lets Bailey Academy class go big

Donation lets Bailey Academy class go big

DANVILLE — For the last couple of years, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy students have been creating eye-catching educational posters, fliers and other printed material for classrooms throughout the Danville school district.

Now students said they'll be able to take their work to a new level thanks to a grant from AT&T.

The company donated $30,000 to the Danville Public School Foundation to purchase a 46-inch wide carriage printer — nearly double the size of the alternative school's current one — unveiled at a presentation on Thursday.

The money will also be used to buy a new scanner, paper cutter and textbooks for the school; fund college field trips to Danville Area Community College, Eastern Illinois University and ITT Technical Institute and a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry; and polo shirts and jackets with the school's print shop logo for students enrolled in the program.

"We're just so excited about what we'll be able to do with this," said teacher Libby Wren, whose head was spinning over the possibilities.

"It's ginormous," she continued, joking that it's so big that several students will have to lie underneath the machine to fit in the classroom. "We'll be able to print on vinyl and possibly laser-cut decals and magnets. We just got it last week, so we don't even know yet what all it does."

Principal Tracy Cherry and Wren, who teaches keyboarding applications and an entrepreneurship class, decided to launch the print shop program after touring an alternative school in Memphis and seeing its student-run program in action.

"We have some very creative students that learn best through hands-on activities," Wren said. "I thought if we could get one of those large-format printers, we could not only create (materials) but sell them as fund-raisers."

The school bought its first printer with public school foundation grant and other donations. Since then, students have been designing materials on the computer, printing them out — and making money in the process.

"They've made fliers, educational poster, posters with inspirational and motivational sayings, banners, thank you cards, valentines for vets, you name it," Wren said, adding the materials are up at every school. "They may advertise an upcoming event like our KDBA Extravaganza or holiday bizarre, or a teacher might want a poster of a diagram of a cell or the solar system or something for a bulletin board display. We've had so many orders, I'm running out of disk space on my computer."

Last year, students also created posters and other material outlining the district's uniform standard of dress requirements, which went into effect that year, and all of the materials to promote the Read Across America event.

Wren said the program has raised more than $5,000, which has been used to buy paper and printing supplies, field trips and other things for the school. The program has also provided more than $1,000 in free work.

The AT&T grant came about after Bob Richard, the foundation's executive director, invited Wren and former students Chelsey Bean, Nathan Watson and Da'Von Bryson to speak about the program at the foundation's 365 Club donor breakfast in January. Chris Warwick — AT&T's director of external affairs, who was in attendance — was so impressed that he encouraged the school to apply for one of his company's grants to continue to build the program.

"We're always pleased to help students graduate from high school prepared for college and career success and this program will definitely give them life skills they can use in their future," Warwick said Thursday.

Staff and students won't be trained on the new printer until Sept. 9. But that didn't stop some of them from sitting down at the computer to start brainstorming on new projects.

Students said the program has renewed their enthusiasm for school.

"It just gives me time to be creative," said Alexus Luster-Hoskins, "and I like helping others."

"You get to think outside of the box. And you're learning entrepreneurial skills," Monique Perez said, adding she will use them in the future.

Some projects have also given them a chance to develop other skills, students said. For example, after creating Dr. Seuss-themed Read Across America materials last year, they got to visit other schools and work with younger students, reading to them and leading educational games.

"I like going out and talking to other people, and showing them what we do and what we can do. It helps build your confidence, and it's just a lot of fun."

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