By Elise Franco
Students and residents soon will be able to walk and run safely on the middle school track thanks to a six-year-long fundraising project.
Vicki Latimer, seventh-grade math teacher at Canfield Village Middle School, said she wanted students at the school to engage in a project that would benefit the entire district and community over a long period of time.
Latimer said after tossing ideas around with students in her science, technology, action and reaction classes, they decided to raise money through various recycling programs for a new track at the middle school.
The can collection began in 2006 with those sixth- and seventh-grade students.
The school’s track is currently made of ash and gravel, which is the original material used upon its installation years ago, said Superintendent Dante Zambrini.
Latimer said the new track, which will cost about $21,000, will be paved with recycled rubber material.
“The new track will be something that can be used by all students,” she said. “The problem now is that it’s rocks and gravel, and it’s not wheelchair-friendly.”
By the end of the first school year, students had raised nearly $550 through the Mahoning County Green Team’s Cash-for-Cans contest.
The school took first place in the county Cash-for-Cans program from 2008 through 2011, raising $2,547, $1,583, $1,504 and $1,089 in each respective school year.
The project also won two national U.S. Conference of Mayors awards for the city — second place two years ago, and first place last year. The project was awarded $5,000 for each.
The school also received donations that helped round out the fundraising effort.
Latimer said they received a check several days ago for just more than $900 from the 2011-12 efforts, which is the last bit of money needed to pay for the track paving.
The middle-school teacher said the project wouldn’t have been as successful if not for the hard work of the students.
“I’m ecstatic and really proud of the kids who made this happen,” she said. “They are truly why the money is there now.”
Latimer said many children became discouraged when their efforts weren’t met with immediate results, but she encouraged them to keep going.
“It was a different concept for kids this age to not have met that final goal at the end of the first year,” she said. “But this shows them that hard work really does pay off.”
Zambrini said the district is working with contractors to work out details of the construction project. He said it’s possible the track could be paved as early as this fall but no later than next spring.
The superintendent said the students’ efforts served as an educational experience that will benefit all members of the district, as well as community members.
“It’s something our physical-education students as well as our cross-country and track teams will use for practice,” he said. “The [recycling project] really brought a teaching lesson to our students about being good stewards of our resources.”