Community Spotlight: School Grants

Sarah’s Path: A Labor of Love

When Smyrna Elementary School parent Michael Streger was first consulted about a memorial garden at the school in 2016, he had no idea it was the beginning of a years-long labor of love.

Over the past six years, Streger, along with other Smyrna Elementary School parents, students, staff, and the family of beloved speech pathologist Sarah Lowder, have built and maintained “Sarah’s Path,” a multi-use outdoor space in front of Smyrna Elementary.

“Sarah passed away in the springtime of 2016,” says Michael, a landscape architect and parent at Smyrna Elementary. “And the school knew they wanted to do something. My wife LaWana came to me and asked, is there something you could do?”

Because Sarah would often bring students outside, the school knew they wanted the memorial to be outside. Streger and the others involved in planning started thinking first of a pathway, which eventually evolved into a multipurpose outdoor space that could be used as a classroom. In addition to honoring Sarah, the space would have benefits for the students and staff.

“Outdoor learning is good for kids,” says Michael. “There’s lots of data about the positive influence of outdoor learning.”

Not only does outdoor learning decrease stress and anxiety for students and teachers alike, but studies have also found that outdoor education improves social adjustment, self-concept, and group cohesion among students.

After the initial plans came in way above budget, the school started fundraising. Sarah’s parents Gary and Kate Lowder funded a significant portion of the original budget to make Sarah’s Path a reality. In addition, a fundraising effort raised $80,000, which provided enough to maintain the space for several years.

“As we were spending our last $400, the opportunity with Keep Smyrna Beautiful opened up,” says Michael. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”

During the 2021-22 school year, Smyrna Elementary applied for and received a KSB School Grant to support Sarah’s Path.

“Volunteers installed fresh soil, gravel, mulch, Japanese Maple Trees, and plants to improve Sarah’s Path,” shared Patty Duda, a parent who helped facilitate the grant request from the Smyrna Elementary School Foundation. “As a result, hundreds of students are able to enjoy the beautiful area while participating in outdoor learning, and parents and students enjoy the beautiful landscape each morning and afternoon while participating in school drop-off and pick-up.”

“We would like to thank Keep Smyrna Beautiful for their financial contribution, through grant opportunities,” Smyrna Elementary School principal Sharon Arduino added. “We would also like to thank the Streger family for taking care of Sarah’s Path so our students, teachers and community can enjoy this wonderful outdoor space.”

Keep Smyrna Beautiful is proud to support Smyrna Elementary School and this important community space. If your school is interested in applying for a KSB School Grant, take a look at our School Partnership page to find guidelines and an online application. The fall application period is open through October 15, 2022.

By: Eloise Holland, published 8.5.2022

© 2024 by Keep Smyrna Beautiful.