Hillcrest dedicates outdoor learning space

A group of volunteers, with support from United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and UnitedHealthcare, cleaned out one of Hillcrest Middle School’s courtyards, making it a learning space for students.

“It didn’t look anything like a courtyard before, and to go from that to this is wonderful,” Principal Stafford Thomas said. “It looks professionally done.”

One of the uses of the new courtyard is for the sixth grade butterfly project, which tracks butterflies to Mexico.

“Our special needs students have their own garden,” Thomas said of the courtyard. “In the spring they will see the fruits of their labor, literally.”

The idea to clean out one of the Hillcrest’s courtyards started more than a year ago, according to Mary Ellen Lemay of the Trumbull Conservation Commission and also a Hillcrest parent.

“These courtyards here are so unique,” Lemay said.

It was hard to narrow it down, but they believe they chose the perfect courtyard for the first renovation, Lemay said.

“One courtyard is done and we’ll pass it to the next generation,” she said.

With support of United Way and United Healthcare, the project took off. Brickman Group, a commercial landscaping company, also provided expertise. Volunteers came last summer, spending two hot days getting all the manual labor done.

“It was two days, but it was also hours and hours of planning,” Thomas said.

Students Sam Micinilio, Anthony Montagnese and Matthew Kerr, now in high school, came out all summer to water the plants.

Donna Pfrommer of United Way said the partnership is what made the project a success.

“The only way to get things done is to partner,” Pfrommer said.

Michael Santoro of United Healthcare said community projects are important to the company and the Hillcrest project had personal meaning since his kids had gone to school there.

“We are happy to come out and give back to the community, especially to provide an educational opportunity,” Santoro said.