megan-oby Megan Olsen
Cottonwood High Community School Director

The Cottonwood High School auditorium and stage are one of the most frequently used school spaces for events in the community. Because, as we like to say here at Cottonwood, the auditorium is “the largest school auditorium West of the Mississippi.” In addition, it is the home of one of the best theater programs in the state, which produces two more shows per year that most high schools.

Cottonwood’s theater, speech and debate, orchestra, dance, and choir courses are popular, and about 30 percent of the school population of 1300 is involved in them. All of these programs use the stage space for performances, and these facilities regularly serve more than 400 students enrolled in arts programs!

_MG_6781As a facility that means so much to the school and the larger community, the Cottonwood stage was a natural choice for the school’s 2015 United Way Day of Caring project. Due to decades of school and community productions, old sets and building materials had accumulated in the large storage area beneath the stage. There were so many things to be moved, sorted, and disposed of that the only way to tackle the project was with a large number of helping hands all at one time.

_MG_6775Other areas were also in need of some updating and care: the makeshift costume closet was half the size of the costume collection and needed expansion and a sturdier rack system; the workshop for building sets had accumulated years of student graffiti and needed new paint and shelving; the classroom serving as a storage space for small props needed to be emptied and its contents moved under the stage in preparation for the school’s growth in population that will come when 9th graders move to the high school in 2016-2017; and the theater classroom, which doubles as a small theater, needed some black paint so it could become a true “black box theater.”

Alone, each of these projects was big. Combined, they were a massive undertaking and required volunteers with a special set of skills.

Enter Williams company.

_MG_6765In addition to bringing volunteers to give of their time at the Day of Caring event, representatives from Williams attended several site visits with school and United Way staff in advance to assess the project and plan project teams, supplies, and logistics. They also partnered with the school in designing a costume closet that provided double the space and a sturdy set of costume racks, which were constructed using plumping pipes.

On Day of Caring, more than 50 volunteers from Williams divided and conquered these projects in one day’s time, with the help of the performing arts teachers and student volunteers from the theater, choir, and orchestra leadership councils. In addition, we couldn’t have completed these projects without the pick-up crew from the Granite District Surplus Department.

While the project was slated to end at 3:30, many Williams volunteers stayed well past the end time to finish the job. The Williams costume closet crew, which had built a new costume closet wall in addition to new costume racks, stayed until 6:30 that night to complete the new costume rack system. The group applauded when the end of the last concrete anchor hit the ground after being sawed off by one of their team members.

_MG_6760After the area under the stage was cleared out and filled with the theater program’s prop collection, one senior theater student proudly said to the theater teacher, “this will be our legacy.” As a legacy of Day of Caring 2015, the work that Williams did with school and district partners has created the space for excellent school and community productions for years to come.