Standing on a small patch of dirt along a gray concrete wall at Workman High School in the City of Industry, Don Outland quietly gave directions to the dozen students and teachers tilling the earth around him.
Outland has taught psychology at the high school since it opened in 1966, and has watched in frustration over the last few years as the grounds around the simple, modern classrooms deteriorated. But last month, Outland and about a dozen students and other teachers began work on a face lift at the only school in the City of Industry.
"It's going to be a showcase for the community," Outland said. "We may be just another high school in Southern California, but we're very proud of it and of our graduates and teachers." The school will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall.
The endless trampling of students has taken its toll on the grounds of the campus, one of four high schools in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. In heavily traveled areas, formerly grassy plots have given way to unsightly patches of dirt.
Last week's planting project marked the beginning of a four-year effort led by Outland and a special student-teacher committee to re-landscape and beautify the school. Deteriorating wooden benches will be repaired next and walls will be repainted.
So far, all of the materials and funds for the beautification project have been donated by school groups and local nurseries.
"We don't have a lot of extras," said Workman Principal Duare Munro. "When it comes to grounds improvement and capital improvements, we just haven't been able to do that in the past couple of years."
Although the 1,220-student school has no money to commit to the project, Outland is confident that continued community support and funds from a 10-kilometer race planned for next fall will provide the $10,000 needed to complete the do-it-yourself project.
"We can do a $50,000 job for $10,000," Outland said. "We can do it with all the students, we can do it with the community. I'm positive it's going to work."
Thus far, parents, nursery owners and residents have provided such things as hundreds of pounds of grass seed and more than a ton of mulch. Outland said that the school is sending out letters to area businesses to enlist their help in the project.
But the key is the participation of the students, who are providing most of the labor. Borrowed shovels and rakes in hand, dozens of teen-agers have already made some progress in restoring a healthy green look to the school.
"This project anybody can do," said Guy Leemuis, 17, the student body president. "It doesn't take a certain grade point average or anything like that. So it makes it even more fun."
Leemuis sat on a staircase and watched as fellow students planted palms and shrubs. He smiled as he talked about the new grass that was planted only three weeks before. He said that students and faculty had talked about campus beautification before, but until recently had not been interested enough to actually work on the project. But this year, the time was right.
Now about a dozen people, including an occasional passer-by, show up regularly after school to hoe, rake and spruce up the grounds.
Munro said that one valuable byproduct of the landscaping has been increased student interest in other aspects of the school. "We're trying to get kids to be more responsible and show more pride in their school," the principal said.
Although Leemuis will graduate in June and go on to UCLA, he is confident that the project will continue. He said the workers have laid a foundation for incoming students.
"Two weekends have gone by and no one has walked on the new grass yet," he said. "And now people are coming up to me saying, 'When's the next workday? When's the next workday?' "