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Building pride at Banning High School


Students work on the "Banning Pilots" mural on campus. Students work on the "Banning Pilots" mural on campus.

In the past, Banning High School in Wilmington ranked among the top 100 schools with the highest dropout rate in California. It hasn't been a darling school of the South Bay before. But there's a group intent on building Banning's reputation. It's not just the administrators or parents. It's the students — students taking pride in their school.

On Saturday the campus was swarming with hundreds of Banning students in ShareFest shirts working side-by-side with a group of volunteers from Rolling Hills United Methodist Church.

They painted six huge murals throughout the school, laid down mulch in gardens, cleaned windows, picked up trash and removed graffiti from bathrooms — all to the beat of a student DJing for the whole campus to hear.

John Theilman from United Methodist helped lead the project at Banning, but for him this wasn't just one day of service. For Theilman the students pride was contagious, which was obvious when he talked about a group of kids who had met with the L.A. City Human Relations Commission to talk about Banning.

“The question was put to them, if they had any control, all the money, what would they change about the school? The thing that rang out during that meeting — and I've heard this before — they want to remove the stereotype image of the kids at this school."

"Look at this,” he said trying to encompass more than 400 hard-working students with one gesture. His implication was this was the result. This was the face of Banning people too often don't see.

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