Volunteers and staff at Village Oaks Elementary, (VOE), have made a commitment to spruce up the bridge, from Farm Worker’s Village, crossing over route 29, to VOE’s campus. The change was essential since the majority of VOE students walk across the bridge to and from school. Although, from the outside, the bridge looks the same as it had for the past decades, the inside of the bridge has experienced a major overhaul. Thanks to the community, the inside of the bridge has become a quarter mile of inspirational artwork and motivating sayings. This will encourage students walking across the walkway to want to go to school and do their best.
VOE was blessed with a new Principal, Beverly Budzynski, who has over thirty years in education. Seeing students walk across the bridge, Principal Budzynski quickly became motivated to do something about the bridge.
A committee, Panther Pass Painting Project Committee, was formed. The Benson Center of Immokalee donated paint and supplies. Mary Thompson, art teacher and committee member, along with the Key Club of Immokalee dedicated many Saturdays to prime the bridge for the murals. Project Manager, Emily Brown challenged the students to submit their artwork to a contest that she labeled: “Do you want to be famous?”. The Panther Pass Painting Project Committee: Emily Brown, Mary Thompson, Vanessa Anthony, and Lisa Zant sifted through 50 images and 20 inspirational quotes that represented the school’s philosophy and the community connections. They chose 14 images and 9 inspirational quotes. These images were then sent to Principal Budzynski, Abel Jaimes, Director of Title I Competitive Grants, Michael Stone, Sr. Field Inspector, and Albert English, Director of Road Maintenance Division for final approval. Two winners, Sasha Joseph and Layla Ayala, ideas are a part of two of the large murals.
Contributing artist are: Joe Flores-community member and parent of a VOE student, Juana Onley-community member/parent of a VOE student, Emily Brown-VOE Staff Member and Parent of two VOE students, Anthony Pachco-Son of a VOE staff Member, Ulibarri Family VOE Staff-husband and son, Lauren Barton VOE Staff, VOE Students-Ryan, Saphira, Maylene, Genoveva, Layla, and several others, Ms. York-VOE Staff, Ms. Ayala a parent of a VOE Student, Mr. Brannon VOE staff, Wesley and Grace Sandlin-Children of Assistant Principal, Mr. Salinas-Plant Manager, Adriana Elizabeth Villanueva VOE staff Member and Immokalee High School BETA Club organizer.
Furthermore, one Saturday a month VOE is sponsoring Panther Partnership, where parents are invited to watch their children participate in various activities. One big noticeable change to the VOE campus is the new inspirational rock path, two tons of river rocks painted to inspire anyone walking nearby.