INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Volunteers picked up paint brushes, shovels and rakes to help beautify five Independence schools during the annual Project Shine Saturday morning.
The annual event began with the annexation of six schools from Kansas City to the Independence School District ten years ago.
An emergency clean-up of those schools was necessary to get them ready for students.
The community support and volunteer spirit helped Project Shine become an annual event.
It's allowed the school district to save thousands of dollars each year, and it’s all from community members stepping up.
For the past ten years, businesses, church groups, students and staff have donated thousands of hours to Project Shine - a volunteer effort that has saved the district at least half a million dollars.
It got its start a decade ago when KC and Independence voters decided that ISD should annex six KC schools.
One of those was Van Horn High School. Back then its graduation rate was 37% and now it is close to 95%.
“I consider it one of the greatest education stories ever told,” said ISD Superintendent, Dr. Dale Herl.
One of the students who showed up to landscape and paint on Saturday is Junior Bre Pace.
Pace paints next to her younger sister.
“Generations will come through this school. They won’t know us, but they’ll have a beautiful school,” Pace said as she painted the walls grey.
She said it gives her a sense of accountability and pride.
“It’s actually my first time doing this. It’s been a really good experience so far,” said Pace.
In all, more than 12,000 people have donated their time.
Mayor Eileen Weir and several district principals were there shoveling mulch - some of which was paid for by the district’s foundation.
“We can look back when we’re older and remember we painted Van Horn. It’s a good experience,” said Pace.