Community Members Finish Outdoor Learning Center In Honor Of JCC Shooting Victims
Several dozen volunteers helped finish up the Blue Valley Middle School Outdoor Learning Center Saturday in memory of two of the victims of the shootings at Jewish community sites in Johnson County.
Reat Underwood and his grandfather William Corporon were killed in April 2014. Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., an avowed anti-Semite and former Ku Klux Klan member, was sentenced to death for the murders of Underwood, Corporon and Terri LaManno in September 2015.
To honor victims, the Blue Valley Middle School decided to dedicate a new space in the school's courtyard for classes to be held outdoors.
The Faith Always Wins Foundation, Blue Valley students and various community members helped lay the last sod and mulch around plants and flowers. The project cost around $65,000, which was offset by fundraising and donations from local landscaping companies and contractors.
Mindy Corporon, Underwood's mother and Corporon's daughter, says she hopes the learning center will help students to unwind while they are in school.
"We want it to be a peaceful, joyous place," Corporon said. "A lot of kids get stressed out when they learn. I remember being stressed and horrible at test taking, but if I could've been in an environment like this, it just might have helped me a little bit."
Jake Svilarich was one of Underwood's best friends, and has helped with the project from the beginning. He attended Blue Valley Middle School when he was younger and says that the school typically didn't use the courtyard much.
"My teachers always talked about coming out and doing different activities and reading out [in the courtyard] when the weather was nice," Svilarich said. "We never really did it because there was never a good place to sit, but now with the new tables and concrete work, I think it'll be used more."
School officials say they're going to let teachers sign up for time slots to use the space soon, and hope to have it open by Tuesday.
Cody Newill is a general assignment reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or you can send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.