“It all started with ‘Can we put up some decorations at the gate?’” explained Anna Festa, whose idea for the display brought together volunteers to make it happen.
The gate she was referring to is an entry for only some students each day, but Festa and the others ultimately realized that all students pass it at some point. So the surfboards represent each of the eventual high school graduating classes of Arroyo Vista’s students.
Festa, mother of a rising 1st-grader, said this detail was an effort to promote “future thinking” among the students, especially after a year where the coronavirus kept them home in front of computers for most of the year.
“You want to help kids see past the now and be able to envision themselves in the future,” she explained. “What it does is it brings them hope and creates a vision for themselves.”
Jenn Koca, the Arroyo Vista PTA volunteer coordinator, helped bring together the crew to make Festa’s project happen. It helped fill in for a year in which PTA events were obviously diminished.
“This was the ending that we needed, I think,” Koca said. “Just a ‘Hey, look, I know you didn’t have the best year, but there’s always a bright side.’ And we did it.”
Festa said she and the volunteers assembled materials through two main ways. The South Pasadena Buy Nothing group — part of movement that encourages the giving or recycling of consumer goods and services — helped network with other Arroyo Vista parents who had supplies, and stores like Ace Hardware here and Target and Home Depot in Alhambra also donated items.
Throughout the pandemic, there had been virtual PTA events but it wasn’t quite the same, Festa said. Gathering in person was much more the parents’ style — six families came together for a painting party ahead of the setup.
“Parents, especially at these schools here, just want to volunteer,” she said. “When I came up with the idea, they were really eager to jump on board and help. It was really fun to have them take part in the process.
“It felt like the opening up of a new post-pandemic era of getting together and celebrating,” Festa added.
Koca, parent to a rising 1st-grader and rising 3rd-grader, said she hoped the exhibit would mark a special moment, especially for the school’s kindergarteners, many of whom were deprived of a typical first year of school. She held out hope that the activity would become a recurring part of Arroyo Vista’s year — apparently there is interest in retaining some parts of the showcase.
“The pandemic was and is still hard on everyone,” Koca said. “In elementary school, especially the little ones, it’s so hard for them to understand what’s going on. For kindergarteners, for most of them, this is their first school experience. Unless they’ve gone to [transitional kindergarten], most of them have never set foot in a school, so it was really difficult to keep them engaged and socializing” during remote learning.