I was recently reminded of the true benefit of helping others. As the school year came to a close, I along with my Co-Hearts rolled up our sleeves to make a difference at Arthur Elementary School in Oklahoma City. This was part of a much bigger effort across the nation as Southwest and AirTran Employees volunteered more than 2,500 hours to help prepare schools for returning students and teachers in more than 50 cities.
In typical Southwest style, Employees competed by location for the chance to give back even more to the school where they volunteered their time with a $500 donation and four roundtrip tickets on Southwest. Locations were judged on the most creative use of budget, Employee participation, and overall uniqueness. I couldn’t be more proud of Team Oklahoma City when I learned that we won the volunteer competition
We decided to surprise the teachers at Arthur Elementary School during an assembly with the four roundtrip tickets and $500 check donation. The reaction was priceless—seeing the teachers’ eyes fill with tears and watching the students erupt into excited cheers—this was all we needed to see the true benefit of the positive difference we made not only that day, but for the new school year.
I get goose bumps each time I reflect back to the first time I called Arthur Elementary and offered to help. The principal, Rhonda Schroeder, responded, "You are an answer to our prayers.” Rhonda informed me that the teachers at Arthur Elementary had been so overwhelmed with the end of school that they had not had time to pack their classrooms to prepare to move to the new wing. That was all I needed to hear to know this school needed our help.
The school’s need was not glamorous, but we wanted to do everything we could to make the school an exciting place for the students to learn. Not only did we help the teachers prepare for their move to the new wing, but we decided to hold an assembly with the students to talk about careers and the importance of staying in school. Finally, we painted a mural of the United States on one of the walls of the new wings, something that Rhonda had always envisioned for her students.
We have made lifelong friends with the principal, teachers, and students at Arthur Elementary. At Southwest Airlines, the Spirit of giving back is alive and well!