Teacher inspires students to give back to their school

It was several years ago when West Seneca West High School music teacher Keith Ersing was inspired to take initiative and partake in random acts of kindness — to give back out of the kindness of one’s heart.

About five years ago, Ersing and his brother, math teacher Craig Ersing, visited the high school on a Saturday to trim, mulch and weed the landscaping in the front of the school. “With budget cuts, it’s hard for our maintenance crew to maintain it,” shared Principal Jay Brinker, who also caught Ersing coming in at night from time to time to weed-wack and trim.

This time last year, Ersing approached Brinker about getting the students involved in the landscaping. “He said, ‘Let’s do something maintenance free,’ went to Northridge Nursery and had layouts created,” Brinker recalled. After speaking with buildings and grounds, Ersing put together a plan.

“The kids were totally psyched about the project and wanted to do it right away,” Ersing shared. About 50 sophomores, juniors and seniors from the school’s Bel Canto Singers stayed after school on Wednesday, May 24, to remove and replace shrubs, mulch and clean the landscaping in front of student services, the main entrance/social studies wing and the West monument sign.

The group started working around 2 p.m. and left around 7:30 p.m. “It took a bit of time but the kids were happy,” Ersing said. Some parents even stopped by to help move dirt or supply the kids with cold treats to cool them off. One student who wasn’t originally part of the project saw his peers hard at work and offered to lend a helping hand!

“My goal was for the kids to see value in giving back to the community and schools,” Ersing said. “It was one of my most memorable days in my 17-year career. I’m so proud of them. It had nothing to do with music and everything to do with being good citizens, good people, doing something without reward and leaving a legacy.”

“The kids did a phenomenal job,” Brinker said. “Keith stayed on this for well over a year. He wanted it to look nice for the kids when they came in every morning.”

Funding for the project came from the school’s bookstore, under the leadership of Tom Shriver. “It was nice collaborating with the kids, building and grounds, the bookstore and administration,” Ersing added. “A lot of people wanted to be part of something great.”

Ersing isn’t the only one helping West Senior look great. Over the past few years, West Senior has added frosted W logos to the doors as well as blue and gold signs throughout the school. Last year, English teachers approached Brinker about painting literary quotes on the walls of the English wing. Now the social studies teachers want to echo their upstairs neighbors and paint quotes on the walls in their wing.

“Everyone wants the place to look good and for the kids to come here and be proud,” Brinker said. “Everyone is taking ownership of the building and wants to make the place look beautiful. It’s incredible.”

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