One O’Fallon Township High School sophomore returns to her old grade school stomping ground, and for a good reason too.
Elizabeth “Liz” Boehning has been working with O’Fallon District 90 to implement upgrades to the LaVerna Evans Elementary School playground for her Girl Scout of America Gold Award project since November 2015.
Just in time, before school let out for the summer, Boehning was able to see what the fruits of her labor of love produced, and the effect it has on students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I decided to do my project here because it was really important to me because I spent so much time here at LaVerna Evans — it’s really where I grew up, and has made me into the person I am today, so I thought it was very important to give back,” Boehning said.
Every Girl Scout of America has various milestones across the course of their membership tenure, such as the Silver Award and Gold Award, with the latter being the highest and most prestigious award attained by a Girl Scout. Boehning was awarded her Silver Award in 2013, and keeps reaching for the sky, her mother Stephanie Boehning said.
Boehning, a Senior Girl Scout Troop 329 member, submitted a seven-page proposal of her project to the Southern Illinois Girl Scout review board, and was approved to put the required 80 hours and months of work into her project — to improve the local school playground by re-sealing, painting and installing a Buddy Bench.
I decided to do my project here because it was really important to me because I spent so much time here at LaVerna Evans — it’s really where I grew up, and has made me into the person I am today, so I thought it was very important to give back.
Elizabeth “Liz” Boehning, O’Fallon Township High School student
Organizing a group of about 20 volunteers to paint 28 different games/activities on the blacktop, such as a U.S. map, an alphabet snack, an obstacle course, hopscotch and four-square, Boehning said she understands now the complexity of school administrative staff who oversee projects like this.
“I had no idea just how involved it would be, but it was worth every minute to see the kids entertained and staying active,” Boehning said.
Volunteers who helped paint the various activity areas, and the massive U.S. map, included, fellow Girl Scouts, OTHS National Honors Society, National Junior Honor Society and Art Club members.
“Originally I was going to buy stencils, but with the creativity of the volunteers was amazing, and we ended up doing it all free-hand,” Boehning said.
Boehning spent hours meeting with LaVerna Evans staff and on the phone with a Northern Illinois company Belson Outdoors, that makes the benches. She said securing funding of about $600, putting the bench together herself and then installing the bench on her own was probably the most time consuming and costly aspect of the whole project. The many gallons of paint purchased from O’Fallon’s Ace Hardware, at a discount, cost about $300, which the school PTO covered, Boehning said. The Recess Activity Fund helped pay for the bench.
A Buddy Bench is a place on the playground where students who don’t have anyone to play with can sit which will inspire others to include that student in playground activities, Boehning said.
“I met with Megan Buck, school social worker, to help me develop a sustainable plan for the teachers to continue passing on the message of the Buddy Bench to future classes,” Boehning said.
It will also help with incorporating the values and goals of the student groups called, Stand For Silence and Students Against Bullying, according to Boehning.
The culmination of Liz’s project was presented to LaVerna Evans students during an assembly last month, where she explained the concept of the buddy bench to the student body.
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “I admire my mother the most. She is the most loving person I know. She truly has sculpted who I am. My mother always stayed by me as a child. She is very patient and always supports my many decisions. She is also extremely talented in literature and an amazing pianist.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “I just finished ‘Fahrenheit 451’ in four days and started ‘Wuthering Heights.’ Very interesting books.”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “I’ve recently become hooked on crosswords. They’re very challenging. I also spend a lot of time playing the piano and guitar. I’m a very artistic person so I usually occupy myself with different crafts, too.”
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: “I always wanted to be a veterinarian, because I love my cats. I used to give both of my cats little checkups and pretend to be their vet. I even had a folder where I kept their checkup sheets.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “I would probably say my positive attitude. I really try my hardest to make the best of my situation. Sometimes it can be hard to see the bright side of things, but it’s never as bad as it seems. I think my positive attitude has led me to accomplish all the things I have and has kept me a happy person throughout my life.”
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “I have a pretty wide taste in music. I love all country and pop but I also listen to some alternative music and Latino music. Being a piano teacher, I hear a lot of classical music, too.”
Q: What would people be most surprised to know about you?
A: “I love to sing. I know the words to nearly every song on the radio, and I sing constantly. Whenever I’m at home, you can find me singing whatever song I listened to last.”