ASCE Members Revitalize Queens Schoolyard in Convention’s Service Project

October 13, 2015
Lauren Kilroy, a student member from California State-Long Beach, weather-proofs a chair for the cafe area at Central Queens Academy.
Lauren Kilroy, a student member from California State-Long Beach, weather-proofs a chair for the cafe area at Central Queens Academy.

No tape measure? No problem.

A group of ASCE volunteers relied on their engineering resourcefulness Sunday during the ASCE 2015 Convention’s community service project at Central Queens Academy in Elmhurst, NY. Using little more than a few paintbrushes and some marking tape, the group turned two small concrete areas behind the school into an outdoor café area with new tables and chairs, and a volleyball court, respectively.

“We used our feet a lot,” joked Alyssa Aligata, an engineering student at the University of New Hampshire who helped design the volleyball court, measuring out distances by stride and lining up right angles with her feet.

For many in the group, it was their kickoff event for the Convention. Volunteers gathered at the host Marriott Marquis hotel in Manhattan before riding a bus 10 miles east into Queens.

The Central Queens Academy opened in 2012 and its two campuses serve a diverse population of students, three-quarters of whom are the children of immigrants. ASCE Metropolitan Section leaders Jason Stern and Peter Mancuso helped connect the Convention group to CQA for the service project. CQA Executive Director Suyin So knew she wasn’t getting just any group of volunteers.

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“When we were developing the project ideas, I realized it would be perfect for these highly trained, experienced engineers to help us with the more complex projects like the design and development of the outdoor volleyball court,” So said.

The ASCE volunteer engineers didn’t disappoint. They cleaned away trash. They stained new chairs and tables for the café area. They measured off and painted lines for the volleyball court – no tape measure required.

“It’s a low-income neighborhood,” said Stern, whose mother worked at the school for two years as a nurse. “The school needs our help.”

ASCE members, from left, Claudio Franco of Brazil, Ali Khalilian of Maryland, Alyssa Aligata of Connecticut, and Micheline Gerges of Lebanon (foreground), discuss design options for the volleyball court at Central Queens Academy.

ASCE members, from left, Claudio Franco of Brazil, Ali Khalilian of Maryland, Alyssa Aligata of Connecticut, and Micheline Gerges of Lebanon (foreground), discuss design options for the volleyball court at Central Queens Academy.

While the work was being done, the academy’s students were home for the weekend, so the enhancements to their school grounds will be a delightful surprise on their return.

“We try to emphasize quality of character, and part of quality of character is taking care of your community,” So said. “For our young people to know that responsible and productive adults came in and took time out of their day to help our community, that’s great.”

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