By Ashley Northington
The (Shreveport) Times
Atiya Williamson, 12, thinks caring for people will eventually make the world a nicer place to live.
So do her Turner Middle School peers.
Turner Middle in Shreveport and Parkway High School in Bossier City were honored Thursday with certificates and $500 donations from Barksdale Federal Credit Union for having a large number of students participating in Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal's We Care Program.
Haughton Middle and Plain Dealing High schools also were recognized for a large population of students participating. The We Care contest honored schools with the largest number and the largest percentage of the enrolled student body participating.
"It's important to care about people because you want people to care about you," Williams said. "I just help people open their lockers or carry their books. I try to help people through my actions."
The purpose of the We Care program is to change negative perceptions of the Shreveport-Bossier City region, said Tom Watts, Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal's Renewal Team director.
About 35,000 people are signed up to participate in the program, which is geared toward people caring about others and their community. Over the past two years, about 15,000 students in Caddo and Bossier public schools have signed on.
"As more people get involved and start doing things to show they care, then the perception of our community will change," Watts said Thursday. "The idea is to get youths involved and thinking this way and they'll carry it on after they graduate."
Randall Austin, a We Care coordinator, said there's been a shift in the attitudes on Turner Middle's campus since its students started the program. He's heard stories of them cleaning up the campus without being asked and bringing in library books found out in the rain.
"There's been a significant shift in the students. And they are showing that they are ready and willing to do caring acts."
As part of being honored for their efforts, Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs players Joe Ori and Tyrel Lucas gave words of encouragement to the students.
"Caring about people is very important," Ori said. "I care about all of my teammates, and it makes us stronger. So when you care about people, that makes you stronger. So We Care is the way to go."
Turner Elementary/Middle principal Charles Washington encouraged the students to be involved in positive activities.
"We give a lot of attention to negative things, but we don't spend enough time recognizing positive involvement in our school. The students here are trying to make Turner the best place in Caddo."
Williamson said she's definitely seen a change in her school since We Care began this year.
"My locker was jammed this morning and another student helped me with it. They would have walked past me last year.
"But we all see what caring can do, so we have a whole new outlook."