A first grader in Mrs. Flora's class left his handprints on a school wall Friday morning, but students like Derrick Shelton who held him up so he could reach the perfect spot left an impression not only on Horace Mann Elementary School but also in the lives of students and faculty members.

A first grader in Mrs. Flora’s class left his handprints on a school wall Friday morning, but students like Derrick Shelton who held him up so he could reach the perfect spot left an impression not only on Horace Mann Elementary School but also in the lives of students and faculty members.

“I wanted to help the kids,” said Shelton, a senior at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Shelton spent Friday planting plants and flowers, hauling barrels around along with other landscaping and finally, held students up so they could each place their handprints along branches painted on the walls of Horace Mann.

Shelton is majoring in Science Education and plans on continuing his education upon graduation.

Xoey Henson, 7, is in Flora’s class. She said she loved getting to paint handprints on the wall of the school. Her classmate, Javonte Garland, 7, also in Flora’s class, said he loved everything about Friday.

“My hands were red and I got picked up by a big guy,” he said.

Friday was an eventful day for not only students and faculty at Horace Mann Elementary School, but also for more than 50 college students from all over Oklahoma and members of Oklahoma Education Association and National Education Association.

The Student Oklahoma Education Association hosted the Outreach to Tech program, which included students from colleges across Oklahoma who are aspiring to be teachers.

“When the kids signed up, they signed up for different projects,” said Principal Susan Fields.

Students spent the day at Horace Mann volunteering to paint, landscape, decorate and assist with making the school more education friendly by doing what was needed.

“We feel honored to be chosen for this opportunity,” Fields said.

Fields said she made a ‘job jar’ for students when they finished a project. The jar was full of tasks such as organizing books and sharpening pencils.

“Those are little things teachers have to do,” she said.

Fields couldn’t hide her emotions at the end of the day when she thought back through everything students with the Outreach to Teach program and her own faculty had done.

“My faculty has been so wonderful and very supportive,” she said. “I’m just so proud of them. I feel like we all deserve this.”

OEA Student Coordinator Brittney Branstetter said it’s hard to pick just one ‘most important thing’ the group was doing for the students at Horace Mann.

“I think the absolute most important thing is just simply being here,” she said. “That way these children see we have an investment in them.”

Branstetter said while painting, landscaping and all the other things that were being done are all wonderful for the students and faculty, those things will all fade but she said the impact everything is making on the students will hopefully last a lifetime.

“To see someone taking time out of their day will reap rewards for years,” she said.

Branstetter said usually SOEA chooses a school each year to help with improvements and usually that school is in the Oklahoma City or Tulsa metro area.

“I wanted to do something different,” she said.

This is Branstetter’s first year as the student coordinator and she said Horace Mann was the perfect school to help. She said field representatives in schools let her know what schools need work then she takes tours of those schools to help choose which one SOEA and the Outreach to Teach program will help.

“This was the perfect school,” she said. “The faculty is incredible.”

Branstetter said Horace Mann was the top pick for this year mainly because of the faculty and how willing they were to make changes where needed.

“The whole entire faculty was like-minded and passionate,” she said.

Branstetter spent Friday helping where needed along with coordinating projects for the several students participating in the Outreach to Teach program.

“All the students are in school with an education focus,” she said. “All are SOEA members.”

Branstetter recruits SOEA members and volunteers for the Outreach to Teach program by driving to colleges statewide and educating them on the importance of SOEA. She said a lot of students also join just by word of mouth and notifications on SOEA’s Facebook page.

“That’s our main portal to reach out to students,” she said.

Branstetter said the Outreach to Teach program is a great opportunity for college students because ‘you just fall in love with the children.’

“It is the most rewarding experience,” she said. “It is incredible…makes you feel pretty good.”

Senior Elaina Gibson, president of the SOEA at the University of Oklahoma, knows all too well the rewards of helping children. This is her second year helping with the Outreach to Teach program.

“As educators, we should want to come together and help,” she said.

Gibson is a mother of a 5-year-old daughter who has autism. She said she loves helping at her daughter’s school.

“I’ve always had that passion to help her,” she said. “It’s awesome. I love it.”

Gibson used to work with foster children and moved on to other jobs but said she always knew she needed to work with kids again.

“Everything kept bringing me back to kids,” she said.

Gibson said she tries to speak up in class for awareness of underprivileged kids.

“I say things when other people don’t,” she said.

Gibson is majoring in Elementary Education and is earning certificates in Early Childhood, Elementary Education and Math, Science and Social Studies. She said upon graduation, she wants to work at a middle school.

“I want to work somewhere where I am going to make a difference,” she said, adding students in middle school are finding their own identity.

Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Marc Moore said he appreciates OEA and SOEA for choosing Horace Mann.

“It’s a great school,” he said. “It will all benefit the kids. They will remember all of this.”