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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Sycamore yard signs liven up Claremont

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

If you’re not a Sycamore parent, you might not have heard of the ‘Be-Leaf’ in Sycamore campaign; however, if you’re a resident or a frequent passerby, you’ve likely seen the yard signs popping up on residents’ lawns over the last few weeks.

Last spring, times were bleak around Claremont due to COVID-19 — the pandemic closed down schools and even canceled play dates between Sycamore Elementary School friends. However, it was also during those dreary times that facilitator Sarah Rockne, ways and means chair Amy Carnes and their colleagues on the school’s governance council brainstormed an effort to inject some joy back into their staff, students’ and community’s lives.

At one of the meetings last spring, Rockne explained an idea that answered one of the council’s key questions at the time, “What could we do in the future that could help rebuild our community at Sycamore and also reach out to other community members?”

“We had distanced learning for such a long time in the last 18 months and it was vital for our kids, students and families to be able to feel connected again. Last spring or summer, we did not really know how the [current] fall was going to look. Could we do things in person? Was everything going to be virtual? How do you reach out to people during this COVID situation?” Rockne explained on Monday. “We realized if we go and do this sign campaign, then we can do that very, very COVID safely. So we chose to do this.”

After conducting online research, the governing body reached out to Tex Visions last year and got the ‘Be-Leaf’ in Sycamore campaign rolling. A year later, the signs were created and the campaign has blossomed throughout the community.

Since September 11, Sycamore school parents and volunteers have worked throughout the evenings to put up the inspiring yard signs for unsuspecting residents who have been ‘Be-Leafed’ by other families. The sign campaign is based on concepts such as ‘flocking’ or ‘boo-ing.’ ‘Boo-ing’ happened last year during Halloween, when residents left goodie bags at the homes of unsuspecting neighbors who then had to do the same for another resident. Flocking is a bit older and involves pink flamingos appearing overnight on a resident’s lawn with a note explaining, ‘You’ve been flocked.’

Custom yard signs made for Sycamore elementary school’s special fundraiser called the ‘Be-Leaf’ in Sycamore campaign stand outside the school in September. Photo from Sarah Rockne.

Rockne said her family was flocked in the past — something they all enjoyed — and shared that the Sycamore campaign is meant to bring that same level of fun and positive energy to the community.

“I think that’s such a wonderful thing to give to students as they’re starting to go back to school right now. As simple as it is, putting a sign in someone’s yard, that overwhelming feeling and that surprise factor … the kids just beam and it puts them in a good mood,” Rockne said.

The campaign’s four lawn signs share a similar style with a forest green background, circular shape and Sycamore logo at the center. Each sign sends a heartfelt message for viewers to ‘be-leaf’ [in] themselves, friendship, equity or kindness. And if you haven’t noticed, the campaign is a fun spin on ‘believe’ and the school’s iconic leaf logo.

[Left to right] Sycamore elementary students Phillip Flores and Milo Carnes smile next to a yard sign which reads “Be-Leaf in kindness.” COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Rockne said the campaign was created with four goals in mind: “to empower students with uplifting messages, spread messages of community beyond the school yard, involve the greater Claremont community in sharing these messages and to support Sycamore elementary.” But can a simple yard sign actually do all of that? Apparently, it can.

“This campaign was designed to rebuild community and really help children and students be able to connect back with the school after being gone for so long. And that the [signs] are helping them bring out those feelings of like ‘welcome’ as they return back to school,” Rockne said. “For them to be able to wake up in the morning and see that the school has put something out there in their yard with those words on it … it gives those kids an extra positive boost in the morning.”

[Left to right] Sycamore elementary students Chloe Rockne, Lyna Chataignoux and Maleah Turner smile next to a yard sign which reads “Be-Leaf in equity.” COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Since parents are volunteers, they typically take their children along when setting up signs, which means families not only get to spread joy, but children also get to see their longtime unseen friends. “A lot of the kids have had it happen to their yards so they know it’s going to be a good thing for these people. Just them being a part of it really helped the children feel included,” Rockne said.

Though the campaign was just introduced, in a single month, over 150 families have signed up to ‘Be-Leaf’ one of their friends, according to Rockne, and Carnes said that the campaign has raised over $5,000 so far.

The money will go back to the school’s governance community and will be used to supply the school with necessary items, as well as funding for its various arts, sciences and musical programs, according to Amy Stanger, Sycamore Elementary School’s principal.

“I think it’s one of many things we’ll do as a part of our school community to bring people together,” principal Stanger said explaining the importance of the campaign. “We’re always looking for activities and ways for families to connect.”

[Left to right] Sycamore elementary students Nelya Chataignoux, Laclan Marler, Ella Rockne and Clark Summerville smile next to a yard sign which reads “Be-Leaf in yourself.” COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Due to its popularity, instead of putting the campaign on a short hiatus, Rockne said volunteers and the school would continue the campaign until the end of the month. Later in the fall, more signs will be available for residents to purchase after the break.

“You have to keep things fresh and change things up. We already have a couple of ideas on how to improve upon it in the future,” Rockne said. She did not indicate what would become of the ‘Be-Leaf’ in Sycamore campaign.

[Left to right] Sycamore elementary students Alex Rockne and Graham Barnes smile next to a yard sign which reads “Be-Leaf in friendship.” COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Pricing for the signs will remain the same: for a single ‘Be-Leaf’ yard sign the suggested donation is $40, $75 for two, and $150 for four. Up to 16 can be ordered at once and volunteers may need up to 24 hours to put up the signs after requesting.

There is also an option to donate what you can and then pay it forward. For more information on the campaign, visit sycamore.cusd.claremont.edu.

 

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