Elementary play area receives facelift thanks to Luling scout

Zachary Waits, at Lakewood Elementary’s playground before making improvements to it.

Refurbished his former school’s playground

The students of Lakewood Elementary are about to see their play area with a nice facelift, courtesy of a Gators alum with an eye on lending a helping hand to his former school.

Zachary Waits, who will be a junior at Hahnville High School when classes resume in August, recently completed refurbishing the hard surface of the LES play area later this month. With the help of a few of his fellow Boy Scouts, Waits repainted the basketball court, put new nets on the basketball goal and spread out some of the playground’s amenities to give the children more space to play.

The project also stood as the final step for Waits receiving his Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program. He sees it as a worthy cause.

“I went there when I was in the 4th and 5th grades, and that playground area was the same as it was before,” Waits said. “It really needed to be redone. I figured I’d step in and give them a hand. (Principal Kelli Oertling) was really excited to have it redone. I think the kids will enjoy it more.”

He also believes it could lend some help for Lakewood teachers.

“I think it’ll make it a lot easier for teachers to watch everyone, because everyone’s right there in one spot,” he said.

Waits credited the idea to his mother, Tanya, who learned of the potential need while part of PTO (National Parent Teacher Organization).

“(Oertling) mentioned how badly the hard surface area needed work,” Tanya said. “The lines were faded … you can barely see them. When she started talking about that, I thought maybe Zachary could help out. And he needed a project … he loved the idea as soon as I mentioned it. It just seemed like a really natural fit.”

To complete the project, he rented pressure washers and disc attachments, purchased three different paint colors, new chain basketball nets, painters tape, paint rollers, paint brushes and scrub wire brushes, the latter to eliminate the old paint lines.

Waits raised money to help offset the costs, which he estimated would run approximately $800 to $1,000, through a GoFundMe page, and also accepted direct supply donations.

With that project complete, the Lakewood students have a freshly redone play area to have fun with. And on top of the reward of being able to help give back, he is also on the verge of achieving something that’s rather rare: just 4 percent of Scouts have earned the honor of Eagle Scout, since the inception of the program in 1911.

Waits joined Cub Scouts in the 1st grade and became a Boy Scout in the 5th grade.

“As you go through the ranks, it becomes less about skills and more about involvement with your troop, earning merit badges and doing work in the community,” he said.

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