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Making a Difference

Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) constructs playground equipment at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Northeast D.C.  In the foreground is Housing Secretary, Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (left) and National Service Director Patrick Corvington looks on.

Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) constructs playground equipment at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Northeast D.C. In the foreground is Housing Secretary, Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (left) and National Service Director Patrick Corvington looks on.

Saturday, October 23, 2010 — This morning dawned a beautiful, crisp, autumn day here in the District of Columbia.  As the sun climbed above the horizon, over 500 volunteers gathered to build a playground at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in northeast DC.  Among the volunteers were Secretary and Mrs. Vilsack along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his wife, Karen.  Mrs. Duncan works with a non-profit group called KaBoom which advocates development of play areas for children and openspace for communities.  Both Mrs. Vilsack and Mrs. Duncan are teachers and have gained an excellent rapport over the past year advocating healthy, nutritious meals in the National School Lunch Program and also promoting the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. 

After brief opening remarks to the volunteers, Secretary Vilsack got right to work and assisted a construction team to fit playground equipment –bolting, and securing the new playground equipment and mixing concrete.  The Secretary genuinely enjoys these kinds of projects, and a day of physical activity in the outdoors was welcomed by all.  It was reminiscent of the day in February, 2009 when Secretary Vilsack donned a hard hat and broke ground on the People’s Garden at USDA.  Today there are more than 550 People’s Gardens around the nation and around the world.

This playground project here at Hyde school brings so many similar benefits to this community in the District of Columbia.  It will be in a place for children to be active and get outside.  It will become a place for the community to gather and connect with each other.  Also, it is a place for young people to gain skills and abilities for their lives.  One of the aspects of the project that was so pleasing were the many students who helped to build the playground. They not only built their skills at industrial arts and landscaping, but they also shared important time with their families, peers, and neighbors.

Today, they also shared their time with members of President Obama’s Cabinet.  Needless to say, everyone gained much from the experience.  And as a lasting legacy, the Hyde Charter School and this blossoming community in northeast Washington, DC will have a playground for generations to come.  Today, everyone answered the call of the Let’s Move! effort –and found that work can sometimes be just as fun and as rewarding as play!

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