OC gives Zavala students, teachers a boost

About 200 people from virtually every department at Odessa College converged on Zavala Elementary School Friday to inject some fun, offer teachers a break and help spruce up the campus.

Katie Nisbet, associate dean of academic partnerships at OC, said the idea came about when she and Associate Dean for Innovation and Learning Robert Rivas were talking about something they could do that they thought would be “incredibly impactful.”

“We decided this would be an awesome undertaking that would be a lot of fun — a little crazy — but mainly a lot of fun,” Nisbet said.

Kindergarteners and first graders spent the morning in the gym with people from the OC student services department, student life and several different student organizations on campus.

“We are cleaning up the flower bed. We’re straightening up the teachers’ lounge. We have people sanding down the benches out here for painting,” Nisbet said.

“The kids are doing things like economics activities. We have math booths that are going through every grade level. Biology is doing life cycles for students about frogs. … They’re doing stress balls for anxiety for testing. We have people that are reading and working with some of the different groups with different books. They’re doing manicures for teachers.”

First Basin Credit Union also donated funds to buy the students pizza and the culinary department made cookies.

Kayla Lopez, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, and Karina Lujan, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, thought the morning was lots of fun and liked the idea of OC coming to their campus.

“I think that idea is very cool because we get to learn new stuff and we learn from the people that come from Odessa College and it’s very cool just listening to them and having the activities they give us,” Lopez said.

OC English professor and Ector County Independent School District Board Secretary Donna Smith has been volunteering at Zavala for several months.

“I think this is a really great experience. I think it’s good for us to interact for the kids. They’re so appreciative and they’re so enthusiastic. I just came out of a second grade class. We were reading books and we were working on predicting what would happen next. They were amazing. I didn’t even have to finish reading the book, because they had it solved, maybe half way through. It’s just real energizing. I’m really proud of OC and I’m really proud of these folks at Zavala. They’re doing a terrific job.”

Principal Linda Voss said it meant a lot to have everyone from OC dedicate so much time to Zavala. She added that it shows they are invested in the campus and exposes the students to college.

“It helps the kids feel appreciated. The activities are helping them learn, but it’s fun, as well,” Voss said.

Zavala is in its fifth year of improvement required under state accountability standards, along with Noel Elementary and Ector Middle School. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.

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