More than 1,300 volunteers came together during the weekend to help renovate Sidney Lanier Center as part of the seventh annual Project Makeover, a student-run nonprofit organization that renovates one Alachua County school each year.
This year, the center was chosen to receive a makeover of everything from its hallways to the playground.
Project Executive Director Courtney Miller, a 22-year-old UF psychology senior, said the organization traditionally updates elementary schools but shifted the focus this year to the center, a school for students with special needs from ages 3 to 22. Miller said the difference in schools changed the way the organization approached projects.
“We are trying to incorporate murals and things that are appropriate to all the different age groups within that span,” Miller said. “We’ve done some (murals) that are geared toward preschool-age students all the way to murals that are very much interactive murals for learning.”
Although the actual school renovation only took place over the span of a weekend, the organization fundraised year-round for the makeover.
This year, Miller said the project was able to raise about $12,000 for the Sidney Lanier Center makeover between fundraising events and partnerships with local businesses.
External fundraising director Katie Burns, a 21-year-old UF public relations junior, said the makeover itself is generally divided into three areas: murals and art, landscaping and a “dream project” specifically requested by the school.
“Every school presents us with a project that they want to see done,” Burns said. “This year, we are redoing the library entirely.”
Project Makeover held a reveal ceremony Sunday to debut the newly renovated school to students and teachers.
Mitch Zyserman, a 22-year-old UF political science senior, volunteered with Project Makeover for the first time this year and said his favorite part of the weekend was seeing the school change.
“To see it transformed … now, seeing the murals everywhere, seeing the trees and plants and little side touches — that’s the coolest thing,” he said.
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 2/24/2014 under the headline "Volunteers rally to give school a makeover"]
Katie Weiser, a 19-year-old UF mechanical engineering sophomore, puts the finishing touches on a mural at the Sidney Lanier Center on Sunday.