Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" featuring Whitney Elementary is expected to air at 3 p.m. todayon KLAS Channel 8.
Map of Whitney
5005 Keenan Ave., Las Vegas
- Whitney principal wants after-school program patterned after first lady’s (3-14-2010)
- School District donors still giving, but will they outlast need? (5-10-2010)
- School of haves bonds with one of have-nots (2-19-2009)
- Sharp rise in homeless students (9-15-2008)
- School goes all out to help poor kids learn (6-3-2008)
Neon pink, lime green and sequin-studded reading glasses decorated the faces of Whitney Elementary School students Wednesday as they stood amid a sea of red T-shirts worn by Target volunteers.
The students weren’t waiting in anticipation of a Justin Bieber concert but instead were excited for a $250,000 library makeover that promised up-to-date Apple computers, sleek iPads and 2,000 new books.
“I can give them food, I can give them clothes, but I can’t give them a new facility,” said Principal Sherrie Gahn, as she addressed the crowd at the library’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is quite a full-circle moment for me and a very emotional one.”
Gahn addressed a crowd minutes before a taping of the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that would reveal the new space to some of Whitney’s 610 students.
“It was amazing!” shouted one youth who walked off the closed set.
Whitney Elementary had been featured on the show earlier in the school year when the show made a $100,000 donation to the school that educates a high population of impoverished and homeless children.
“Literacy is really the key for all children to be what they want to be in this world,” Gahn said.
Whitney and the other schools were selected for the library makeover program sponsored by Target and the Heart of America Foundation, a national nonprofit group based in Washington that focuses on volunteerism and literacy.
The library makeover program partnership has set out to rejuvenate libraries in 32 schools in the United States this year. This year will total 150 schools since the partnership began in 2007.
Usually schools are selected based on a high number of students on the free- or reduced-lunch program, said Beverly Mason, assistant director of the Clark County School District’s School-Community Partnership Program.
The renovated library “is amazing. It’s bright, student friendly, full of books, technology and it makes everybody want to read,” said Pat Skorkowsky, associate superintendent for CCSD. “When you walk in every time you turn a different direction you see something that will take your breath away.”
The library features brightly colored chairs, beanbags and rows of glossy new books and computers.
“Target is embracing these families,” said Angie Halamandaris, president and co-founder of the Heart of America Foundation.
About 150 local Target employees helped students stuff canvas bags with canned food and fresh produce during the festivities surrounding library’s unveiling. Each student and his or her family were able to take home 22 pounds of food and seven new books.
Over the course of six months the same volunteers planned and set up the new library by stacking bookshelves, painting and installing carpet.
“When I went in and I saw this I wanted to start crying,” said school librarian Jennifer Sims. “These kids are so deserving of this.”