ABC7 Salutes volunteer effort by veterans beautifying local schools

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A national veterans nonprofit called The Mission Continues is helping beautify Southern California schools.

While class was in session at Hollenbeck Middle school in Boyle Heights on Thursday, tucked away in a corner of campus was a group of veterans hard at work.

"Building two benches around trees in a garden area so students have somewhere to go at lunch time. We're also going to be fixing up a fencing along one of the gardens that has kind of become rotten," said veteran Patrick Ketchum.

Ketchum led a squad of infantry soldiers during three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now calls San Pedro home. He's a proud member of The Mission Continues.

"Even though there's 300,000 veterans, and it's a huge city, you can feel incredibly lonely. Coming to these types of events, you meet other veterans and you have that camaraderie. You also have that sense of service that you got in the military that you don't get in the civilian world as much," said Ketchum.

Ketchum, along with other Southern California vets, are in charge of a beautification project at Hollenbeck. For this mission, orders were dictated by students.

One of the reasons why The Mission Continues does so much work at Los Angeles schools is they feel that if a school is in disrepair, students will take their cues from what surrounds them. Providing them with a clean and welcoming environment means they'll have more pride in their place of learning.

"They spend six or more hours here each day with us, so it has to be something that's inviting for them, especially the outdoor spaces. Here in Boyle Heights, there's not too much green space in the community, so schools provide a unique opportunity to have green spaces for kids," said Randy Romero, principal at Hollenbeck Middle School.

The bulk of the project will be completed Saturday. On Monday, Romero plans to announce that the outdoor spaces will be open to all 1,000 students.
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