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Project Community Care greets Portland students with clean campuses just in time for first day back

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Leo Lawyer, new incoming principal at Cleveland High School, uses a pressure washer to clean the steps outside the school Saturday morning, Aug. 24 during a Project Community Care day organized by Portland Public Schools. School didn't start for another four days, but Cleveland High School's new principal, Leon Lawyer, already was busy on campus, pelting the steps with a pressure washer.

Lawyer was one of several volunteers who descended on the Southeast Portland campus Saturday morning, Aug. 24, to clean up the grounds as part of a Project Community Care day the school district hosts each year.

This year, more than 70 of PPS's 81 schools participated in the project, which sees volunteers team up to help beautify and clean up school grounds just before kids are scheduled to return to school. Helpers embarked on everything from gardening to debris removal and tree care, among other tasks at schools throughout the city.

Project Community Care is once per year, but at Cleveland, a majority of the school's groundskeeping is done by volunteers.PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Teague, 7, (center) helps his mother, Erika Wilde pick up trash and rake a walkway at Cleveland High School. To the far left, 3-year-old Rogue waits for instructions. Cleveland High was one of more than 70 schools in the PPS district where volunteers helped beautify the school grounds just before schools re-opened for the new school year.

Jennifer Abbassian leads a group called Cleveland Weekend Warriors. The group, which draws on the goodwill of members from two Portland churches — Imago Dei and Bridgetown Church — regularly deploys volunteers for maintenance and cleanup projects at the school.

Abbassian said she helped organize Weekend Warriors after participating in a Project Community Care day a fear years prior.

"We did this event, and we were like, 'Oh man, there's so much more to do,'" Abbassian said. "We maintain the grounds beyond what PPS does with their limited resources."

The organizer says the Cleveland campus on Southeast Powell Boulevard plays a big role in its community. Having a well-kept school can have ripple effects on student and teacher enthusiasm, and in the neighboring business community.

"It's really not just about the teachers here, it's also about the community and business owners nearby," Abbassian said, taking a break from pushing a broom. "It really sets a tone."

Amid the loud motor of the pressure washer, volunteers cleaned up leaves and other curbside debris, while children pulled rakes to form a mulch walkway.

PPS PHOTO: BETH CONYERS - Volunteers help maintain a garden site at Chief Joseph Elementary School in Portland during an annual Project Community Care day."Project Community Care Day is an annual tradition and a wonderful opportunity to help beautify our school grounds and build community," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said in an announcement about the event.

PPS students returned to their campuses Wednesday, Aug. 28.

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