South City

South City school to benefit from long awaited playground

After 10 years of planning, the Circles of Success Learning Academy in South Memphis is building a new playground thanks to approximately $85,000 in grants from the BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation and a DC-based non-profit called KaBOOM!

Since being awarded the grant in July, Anthony Scherrod and Joseph Golden, teachers at Circles of Success, and the principal Sheri Catron Cooper, have hosted planning and committee meetings with community stakeholders and residents to figure out the needs for the playground.

KaBOOM! is a non-profit specifically dedicated to creating place of play, especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Golden said a focus group of 30 students at the school submitted drawings and ideas for the playground to KaBOOM! representatives including additions for monkey bars and climbing walls.

Folks from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the school, St. Andrew's Church and neighbors from nearby businesses came out to work together and get the project finished in time for Friday's grand opening.

He said students are excited to see their ideas come to life.

Cooper, who has been the principal for the past 13 years, said she was elated when she found out they received the grant.

“They could hear me down the hall way because I was screaming when I found out we got it,” she said. “I did the first plans for a playground in 2007. It’s been 10 years I’ve been wanting a playground but because they are so I expensive, I started looking for grants.”

The 15-year-old charter school is housed in the 125-year-old St. Andrew AME Church at 867 South Parkway East. Circles of Success inherited the playground already on campus, which was used by a now-closed daycare.

The 247 students in Kindergarten through fifth grade at Circles of Success couldn’t use the pint-size equipment. Students at the school were having recreational activities indoors or free play on the church grounds.

“We’re excited to be able to offer play to our students and children in the general area,” Cooper said. “Children need to play, especially outdoors. The playground is also where the can develop friendships and learn team work.” 

Volunteers work on setting up a foundation for a new playground on Wednesday morning at Circle of Success Learning Academy in South Memphis.

Scherrod said the playground will be maintained by the school and they plan to have students help keep it clean. He said the surrounding parks are not always child friendly, which is why it’s so important that the new playground is being built.

“Anyone in 38106 and 38126 zip code and beyond can come to this playground,” he said. “We recruited parents and residents to help us with the planning process and to give feedback. We don’t want people to think it’s just a school playground.”

Circles of Success is requesting 200 volunteers from the community to help build the playground. There are two prep-days, Wednesday September 27 and Thursday September 28 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on both days. From 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, September 29, volunteers are invited to help with final phases of construction for the playground.

The students at Circle of Success will be offsite during construction on September 29 and return at 2:30 p.m. to a fully erected playground and ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

Volunteers can sign up here.

Read more articles by Erica Horton.

Born and raised in Memphis, Erica Horton is a freelance journalist that loves to learn and write about almost anything. Email her story ideas here
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