The Greater Metro Parks Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Metro Parks Tacoma programming and capital projects, yesterday presented the Outstanding Project award to UW Tacoma, the University of Puget Sound and McCarver Elementary School for their exceptional leadership and contributions to the Zina Linnik Project.
Young people who were part of the Zina Linnik Project — students from McCarver Elementary School, UW Tacoma and University of Puget Sound — spoke to the crowd of 550 at the awards luncheon about what they gained from the project and what it meant to them.
Named after a 12-year-old McCarver student who was brutally murdered four years ago, the project started as a simple idea to honor her with a playground. Once it got rolling, with the help of many people from the Hilltop community and surrounding area, the project grew to encompass an ambitious goal: two great parks where children could safely play.
McCarver Park, situated next to McCarver Elementary School in the Hilltop neighborhood, was completely renovated, with new equipment, community gardens and special art works in Zina Linnik’s memory. At the other end of Hilltop, a new “sprayground” was built in Wright Park. When the two parks were opened in May, nearly 1,500 students, teachers, parents, volunteers and supporters marched from Wright Park to McCarver, chanting peace slogans and cheering loudly. They named it Play in Peace Day.
The $3.5 million project has so far raised more than $3 million by donations and fundraisers such as sales of a t-shirt designed by the McCarver students.
Students from McCarver, UW Tacoma and University of Puget Sound worked together for many hours over several years to plan the parks and tell the community about them. The younger children, given a chance to give their ideas and opinions, surprised older students and adults with the eloquence and maturity they brought to the planning process. The McCarver Peacemakers, as they call themselves, held press conferences, testified to the state Legislature and proved to be inspiring and articulate spokespeople.
One boy, Mushawn, is now an alumnus of McCarver. He spoke at the luncheon, telling about his experience and his own current project to supply baby formula to families who need it. “Now I know I can do anything,” he reportedly told one of the college students in the project. “When my friends and me see something that’s not right, we can just go to the City Council.”
Another McCarver student, Anna, quoted on the Greater Metro Parks Foundation Web site, summed up the experience this way: “We wanted to build the park for kids to feel safe and not feel that someone is trying to harm them. We are excited that someone listened to us and did not think that we are just kids that don’t have power to do such things as design and plan a park.”
“The Zina Linnik project was a powerful demonstration of authentic partnership,” said Drew Ebersole, executive director of the Greater Metro Parks Foundation. “It shows what we can do together, united by a common purpose.”
For more about the Zina Linnik project and the university students and faculty involved in it, visit tacoma.uw.edu/news/what-mccarver-kids-taught-university-professors.