By Karanja A. Ajanaku
At some point in the future, the lighting in the athletic locker rooms at Riverview K-8 School likely will mostly go unnoticed. Such is not the case now.
Improvements made Monday by the TVA Transmission Team illuminated the lighting need and spotlighted the value of helping hands to an inner city school facing multiple challenges in the quest to educate students.
Located at 241 Majuba Ave. in South Memphis, Riverview was one of six sites focused upon during what was dubbed an “Afternoon of Service.” Several dozen TVA retirees descended up the school.
Principal Rasheeda Cooperwood-Jemison, who was an assistant principal at Riverview last year, clearly was pleased about the visitors and their intent.
“We were fortunate to be selected by the Tennessee Valley Authority for their community service project,” said Cooperwood-Jemison, noting that the first word of the opportunity came via an email fielded by one of the school’s secretary. “The next thing I know they showed up and asked what we needed to have done here at the school.”
Was she used to someone showing up with such a let-me-help-you invitation?
“Absolutely not,” said Cooperwood-Jemison. “We really see it as a blessing. Sometimes our school can be forgotten about. Just the location; we’re not really off of a main street. We’re in the back of a neighborhood.”
She had a wish list.
“The most important thing was to get some positive affirmations up in the restrooms. Things that students could read and that would speak life to them. …Everywhere they go we try to speak life into them and be positive.”
Since there is not a lot of adult supervision in the restrooms, she reasoned that positive messaging – like ‘You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are awesome. Hard work pays off’ – would re-enforce the ongoing effort.
Two Riverview staffers, Joyce Catron, general office secretary, and CIS Site Coordinator Tamika Williams were pivotal links that made Monday’s activity possible.
“They have boots on the ground. I’ve seen maybe 30 volunteers. They’re here in the school hands-on. They’re working in our locker rooms, they’ve made donations for our staff lounge, they’re doing the project in the restrooms, as well as beautification projects outside. Also, we’re receiving a donation for our Robotics cCub.”
The Robotics Club was started through a partnership with Mitsubishi, a community partner. Students will compete in robotics competition next spring.
“Mitsubishi has a hug factory not far from the school and a lot of people don’t even know about it. That’s why Mitsubishi wanted to partner with our school to get the students thinking beyond any part time job and thinking what does a career really look like in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in your own community.”
The helping hands come as the Riverview staff focuses on “moving the needle on academics for our students.”
Two years ago, Riverview was a Level 5 school for growth and achievement before dipping to Level 1 last year.
“We expect with our pushing to be right back at the Level 5,” she said. “It’s more than just performance on a test. We know that literacy is going to be the key for our students in impacting their future trajectory. We want to make sure they have all the opportunities.
“We know that Memphis is a city that’s changing. There are a lot of job opportunities and a lot of time people are not prepared. We really want to give them a solid foundation.”
Cooperwood-Jemison said she see’s herself in the Riverview’s students.
“I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. in a neighborhood just like the neighborhood I am blessed to serve in. They’re students who have a lot of potential…These are children that just need an opportunity and they need to know that people care about them.”
Having the TVA volunteers onsite reaffirms the staff’s messaging to the students, she said.
“For us to say, ‘Hey, we love you. We care about you.’ They think that’s what we’re supposed to say because we work here. But to see all of these volunteers really does something to their spirits.”
Tequilla Hurt of TVA was instrumental in the selection of Riverview. A Wooddale High School graduate, she now lives in Chattanooga. When she heard of the principal’s request for affirmations, Riverview landed solidly on her selection list.
“TVA is here to serve. We’re part of the community. We want to help out and continue to build partnerships and hopefully there will be more to come.”
Jacinda Woodward, TVA’s senior vice president for power operations, echoed TVA’s commitment to service.
“Being able to serve the community here in Memphis is really important to us. We took this opportunity while we were out here (in Memphis) for a business meeting to also do some community service. …
“There were some things that were needed to be done that we could do. We have a lot of skilled and talented people that work at TVA….”
This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender