School project spruces up Ralph Williams Elementary School


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Jose Rosario and Annalise Rosario helped to improve the grounds at Ralph Williams Elementary School during a landscaping project.

Beautifying the school grounds this school year has been a top priority for Erica Zegles, the PTO president for Ralph Williams Elementary School.

So, she started making phone calls. She started writing letters. 

It didn’t take her long to find a landscaping company willing to visit the school, survey the grounds and offer its advice on selecting sustainable, low-maintenance yet beautiful plants that would make the school grounds come alive. 

Tropic-Care of Florida donated and delivered crotons, foxtail ferns, society garlic, shrubs and cord grass, as well as mulch and soil for the school’s new garden club.

With such a generous donation, there was work to do. The grounds would need to be weeded. The new plants planted and watered. Zegles sent an email request and was delightfully swamped with responses from eager and willing volunteers. It took half a day to weed the beds. Then, a couple of weeks later, 40 volunteers spent an entire Saturday planting and watering. The volunteers were a mix of administrators, teachers, students and parents.

“The society garlic is blooming, big purple flowers,” Zegles said. “Everything looks so alive. It makes you proud when you know you were part of that.” 

The school also started a gardening club this year, run by physical education teacher Mike Newman. 

“We are growing three different types of tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Romaine lettuce, Iceberg lettuce, onions, radishes, celery and squash,” Newman wrote in an email. “We are in the process of cleaning up the area and laying new sod with a stepping-stone pathway to save the area from too much foot traffic so that the students can enjoy a nice area to look for butterflies and watch for flowers to blossom.” 

Establishing a sense of community has always been important to Zegles. The school runs a successful food donation drive, hosts a fall festival open to the public as well as an end-of-the-year fundraiser, a luau in May, with silent auctions and raffle baskets. 

“There’s so much good in our community and so many people willing to help. It’s an awesome feeling,” Zegles said.