Liberty MS colorfully celebrates 10 years

To celebrate a decade of service, LMS community participates in Color-A-Thon, raises $3,000

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — To say that the attendees of Liberty Middle School’s 10th anniversary celebration were a colorful bunch would be an understatement — by the end of the PTA-hosted Color-A-Thon on May 14, participants were covered head-to-toe in a thick patina of rainbow dust.

But it was all in good, not-so-clean fun as roughly 60 students and parents alike gleefully walked around a course while volunteers pelted them with colored powder, turning their once-pristine event shirts into a haze of neon reds, yellows, blues and pinks. When the dust finally settled, literally, participants’ only feature not doused in color were their bright white smiles.

Event organizer Bobbi Braunstein could not have asked for a better outcome. The PTA co-president told the West Orange Chronicle that she knew firsthand how enjoyable color walks could be, having previously joined in two, including the one held for Edison Middle School’s 10th anniversary last year. So when it came time to decide how to recognize Liberty’s own decade of serving West Orange’s children, Braunstein and the rest of the PTA thought the concept would be perfect.

“(We thought) it should be fun for everybody who comes,” Braunstein said in a May 13 phone interview. “And then they can give back to the school.”

LMS certainly did benefit from the Color-A-Thon, with the event raising approximately $3,000 for the school. Though roughly half of that will go to pay School-A-Thon, the company that runs color walks throughout the country, in addition to other expenses, Braunstein said the PTA will use at least $1,000 in profits to purchase a monitor to display event listings electronically. That way, she said, students and visiting parents will be more likely to see upcoming activities rather than having to sift through notes on a bulletin board or worry about fliers being lost in the black hole that is a child’s backpack.

And Principal Robert Klemt is grateful, though he said PTA support is nothing new for Liberty. He said the association has been an integral component of the school ever since he was its inaugural assistant principal 10 years ago; the PTA has raised funds and donated gifts such as the two benches sitting in the peace garden just feet away from the Color-A-Thon’s site.

Additionally, Klemt said gatherings like the anniversary celebration are extremely beneficial to LMS, bringing students and parents together to strengthen the overall school community. Plus, as he found out for himself, the events are enjoyable for people of all ages.

“I planned on just staying with a clean shirt, but you get sucked into the fun,” Klemt told the Chronicle while peering through dust-coated sunglasses, his Color-A-Thon shirt now every color but its original white. “It looked like too much fun to pass up on.”

Klemt was not the only one looking for a good time. LMS mother Nancy Silver said her family attended because the event seemed like it would be a lot of fun, especially for her daughter Michelle.

“My daughter loves anything physical,” Nancy Silver said. “Throwing color on each other just seems like a great thing to do.”

Kidding aside, the Silvers said they also wanted to support LMS, which they said has provided Michelle with an excellent education. Gary Silver said he is confident that his daughter is well-prepared for high school, thanks to Liberty.

The school also has plenty to offer outside of the classroom as well, according to eighth-grader Devin Andrada. Devin, who attended the Color-A-Thon with a host of relatives in tow, told the Chronicle that he appreciates the fact that LMS provides students with the opportunity to join many clubs and sports teams, of which he has taken full advantage.

“My favorite part of Liberty Middle School is probably all the activities they have after school,” Devin said. “I do track. I do cross country. I’m in the public speaking club. (The school) is very interactive.”

Fellow LMS student James Giambattista and his father, Joseph, are also no strangers to taking part in school activities. Joseph Giambattista said he makes it a point to participate whenever Liberty holds any sort of fundraiser because, without support from the community, there would be no extracurricular programs to benefit students.

Plus, Joseph Giambattista pointed out that getting involved with events like the Color-A-Thon is a great way to meet new people and stay in touch with the school. Above all, he said it is an opportunity for people to bond with their own families, something he said should not be taken for granted.

“The family units aren’t there anymore,” Joseph Giambattista said. “This is a chance for families to get together, even if it’s one parent or both. (Otherwise), the parents are working and they don’t see their kids. The kids are doing homework. A lot of times they don’t even get together to see each other. They might have dinner together, they might not.”

The Giambattistas lauded the PTA for doing a “fantastic” job of providing such opportunities. And Liberty’s PTA does sponsor numerous events, such as the recent breakfast in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week and the annual eighth-grade dance. But such events require hours of work and Braunstein said her organization is always in need of new members — especially parents. In fact, the co-president said parents make up only one-third of the group’s 70-member body. This is frustrating when one considers that the LMS community consists of approximately 500 families, she said.

Braunstein urged all Liberty parents to join the PTA, pointing out that being a member is the best way learn about what is going on at the school, as their teenage children grow more reluctant about opening up to their families. Additionally, she said more members means more money in membership fees, which translates into fewer fundraisers. And that means the PTA will have more opportunities to give back to the school and its students.

“It’s like voting — every vote counts, every membership counts,” Braunstein said. “Anything we get goes right back to the school. It’s like an investment in your own kid.”

Photos by Sean Quinn