TEMPLE TERRACE — While their primary purposes are much different, the nonprofit Heart of America organization and AbbVie, a for-profit pharmaceutical company, share a passion for helping people in need.
That commonality drew them into a recent partnership to transform a large part of Greco Middle School's 55-year-old media center into a multicolored, multifaceted modern-day Makerspace.
Equipped with a 3-D printer, iPads, a LEGO wall, a Sphero coding robot and many other technology oriented gizmos, it's designed as an area where students can tinker, collaborate and be creative. The space also aims to entice the young people to future careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) fields.
Heart of America — whose mission is to improve the educational environment in aging schools across the country to enhance students' learning experiences — teamed up with AbbVie, which funded the Greco project.
The company also sent a volunteer crew of employees to remove the space's old shelving, paint the walls, assemble new bookshelves, install whiteboards and affix colored circles containing quotes from numerous not- able individuals throughout the world.
In addition, AbbVie donated the multitude of learning tools and art supplies for the Makerspace, as well as a few furniture pieces and an eye-catching new rug to highlight the space.
Moreover, the company added 250 new books to the media center's collection and provided knapsacks and individual cards of well wishes for every Greco student who walked through its gates on the first day of school Thursday.
Keylow King, a medical science liaison at AbbVie, was among the company's volunteer contingent that completed the project in a single day.
"It means a lot just to know the kids will come back to school with an opportunity to grow," said King, who noted that when the undertaking was finished he and several others in the group rewarded themselves by toying with the iPads and a few of the other gadgets his corporation contributed.
Jill Heath, president and CEO of the Heart of America Foundation said transforming learning and changing lives is important to both her organization and to AbbVie.
"You can't describe it as anything else but amazing, especially in this climate we are in with cuts to our budget and everything," said Greco principal Valerie Newton.
"I don't think I've ever smiled so much," she added.
Greco's media specialist Deborah Griner said when she learned an area in the school's library had been chosen for what she described afterwards as a "home makeover," she was ecstatic, but really didn't know what to expect.
"I love everything about it, including the variety of colors and the brightness of the space and I know the kids will, too," said Griner, who is soon to begin her 11th year at Greco. "I usually greet them at the door on the first day of school, but this year I plan to stand in that space."
Greco PTSA President Alison Fernandez, mother of four boys, remarked that because all kids enjoy doing hands-on projects, that in itself should draw most every Greco student to the new Makerspace.
"I think that's what makes this project so important," she said. "The kids can see the relevancy of what they are doing and so it's worth it to them to participate."
Over the last 20 years Heart of America has transformed more than 360 educational spaces and provided more than 4-million library and take home books to children in economically disadvantaged communities.
And in 2016 alone, AbbVie employees volunteered more than 25,000 service hours in 50 countries.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]