DENVER – It’s been almost a year since the death of East Lincoln Middle School Media Specialist Joy Tyson, but her memory lives on in the school’s courtyard, which was recently renovated by Girl Scout Troop 1893 in her honor.
“She was the media specialist here for three years and she was battling cancer the entire time,” Principal Heather Myers said. “Last spring, she came to me and asked if we could turn this courtyard into a usable outdoor space. I’ve been here for more than six years now and it had never been used. She started looking into some grants before she passed, but of course that all fell through without her.”
That’s when Troop 1893 stepped in. Its members – Jessica Lojek, Maggie McCrostie, Kyla Parks and Laura Zacharauskas – had developed a bond with Tyson during sixth and seventh grades, and jumped at the opportunity to bring her dream of a functional courtyard to life.
While honoring Tyson, the girls’ work doubled as their Girl Scout Silver Award project.
“The staff at the school already wanted to do a memorial for Mrs. Tyson, and the girls were very interested in helping,” troop leader Anne Bias said. “The girls had obviously built a relationship with Mrs. Tyson during their prior two years at the school, and in working with the school, they were able to incorporate a lot of what she had envisioned for the courtyard into their project because they just wanted to make that happen in her memory.”
Planning for the project began in the fall, when the girls sought out members of the community to pitch in with donated time and materials.
Jackie Moffitt, whose child also attends East Lincoln Middle, was recruited to paint a sunflower mural in a corner of the courtyard. The mural includes the quote: “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom,” which was provided by Tyson’s family.
“The girls talked to (Tyson’s husband) about some of Joy’s favorite things, so that’s how the sunflower theme came about,” Myers explained. “Her entire family wore sunflower pins at her funeral.”
The sunflower theme continues throughout the courtyard, with metal sunflower yard ornaments crafted and donated by Scott Beam. The courtyard also includes a garden, with flowers planted by the scout troop.
“While the community was wonderful in stepping up to help, the project was definitely led by the girls,” Bias said. “They were there making decisions every step of the way to produce this beautiful outcome.”
The girls were much more than just project managers, however, arriving to school early and staying late to provide the work needed to even make the courtyard inhabitable. They powerwashed the entire courtyard, cleaned out both garden beds and covered them with stones donated by Lowe’s, and assembled five picnic tables donated by Tyson’s family.
“They wanted to help carry on her memory as new students cycle through the school, and they were able to do that by creating the outside reading environment that she had always desired,” Bias said.
While students weren’t able to fully enjoy the courtyard this year because the project wasn’t completed until the final week of school, Myers already has a vision for the area starting next year.
“It’s going to be an outdoor reading space that our students can enjoy when they visit the library, and teachers will be able to bring their classes out here on some days as well,” Myers said.