WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — When you look outside Snively Elementary in Winter Haven, you'll notice bright colors on the walls and a blossoming garden.
It's all thanks to recent partnerships to help beautify the area, making the school feel more warm and welcoming.
"We really wanted to bring home that warm feeling, that I want to be at school feeling, and we really wanted to increase our attendance. And we felt that played a large role," explained Principal Diane Roseborough.
Assistant Principal Tony Johnson echoed those thoughts.
"The kids seem to love the murals, they really do. They love the murals, and it does make them want to be here, one of the things that our school improvement plan is wanting to do is to try to increase our attendance because we know if kids aren't here, they can't learn," Johnson said. "So as we unify the campus and get them to want to be here and desire to be here, little bit more, that's going to help us make those goals which are going to help also in our academic goals. And so we've been very fortunate on this last year to have done well in that area."
The murals are beautiful, encompassing the mascot of the school, too. Making sure every kid knows they, too, can become a "terrific tiger."
"So this Tiger corner has kind of helped blend into our theme of our Terrific Tiger themes that everybody can be successful. And so it's really been a nice thing to bring in," explained Johnson.
In turn, the impact of these community initiatives is already paying off.
"We did move from a school grade of a D to a C. So during a pandemic, which is quite a feat for our staff and our students, they worked really, really hard. And we're so incredibly proud of them," explained Roseborough. "Also we want to bring that message of its not just academics, we appreciate the arts, we want to teach the whole child and we have many, many students that are very strong in the arts. And they were blown away by this mural here, just to show what art can do. And that you don't have to be a straight-A student, if you're strong in the arts, love the arts, you can do anything in the world that you want to."
Kurtis Flanders is the Executive Director of Growing Positivity, Inc. They're working with Polk County Schools to make a positive impact, like at Snively Elementary.
"It's mostly just about bringing more color, more life, more joy and appreciation for your school. And, you know, we couldn't have found a better school to start this with," explained Flanders. "Every mural that was painted by artists that we brought in was done for free, you know, we had artists that drove as far as Ocala twice, you know, come down and back to be able to do art for the kids."
"Everyone that took part in the project, from both perspectives," Flanders added. "From the kindness of their heart, they believe in what art can do in the lives of children, and they did this, you know, for the kids."
What better time to bring the arts into our schools.
"There's not a better time to show that our arts are extremely important. You know, it gives us joy, when we walk by we see all this color gives us, you know, a sense of purpose when we see our mascot slapped on the side of our building like this," Flanders said. "You know, it's, the arts are kind of why we, we stay alive, you know, it's our expression recreated in the image of the creator to create. So I think the arts does a good job at that."
The future looks promising here at this Title 1 school. Together, with the help of this partnership, they're looking to make their garden an outdoor classroom.
"It's great for science, it's great for writing. It has many opportunities, and it's just a beautiful focal point that the kids love," said Johnson.