By Dan McGrath

Twelve months a year, Leo High School is a service provider, assisting students, parents, families and the Auburn Gresham community as a whole.

On Martin Luther King Day—Monday, January 15—Leo was a service recipient. Nearly 200 volunteers from the ChiGivesBack non-profit and TLOD–Top Ladies of Distinction–spent a full day at Leo, cleaning, scraping, painting and enhancing our efforts to make a 98-year-old building look good for its age while adhering to Dr. King’s directive to be of service to others.

ChiGivesBack works with various community groups “inspiring, empowering and influencing” people to give back within their communities. Principal Shaka Rawls  and Community Engagement Coordinator Yolanda Sandifer-Horton had worked with co-founder John Boddie and volunteer coordinator Sandi Robinson on previous events, which sparked the group’s interest in Leo.

“They did a spectacular job,” Principal Rawls said. “The cafeteria already looked good with the new furniture. The paint job really brightens up the room, and the Lion mural—what a beautiful addition.”

Sherwin Williams supplied the paint for the project. Mariano’s, Panera Bread and Dimo’s Pizza fed the workers, who accomplished a lot in a day, painting the gym as well as the cafeteria and adding breathtaking murals to the second-floor teachers’ lounge, the walls outside the gym, various hallways and the first-floor study area between the cafeteria and the auditorium. 

And it wouldn’t be a Leo event without an appearance by the world-renowned Leo Choir. Mrs. Hill and about eight singers performed a four-song set while the volunteers ate lunch. They were greeted by a standing ovation, and afterwards, some of the moms in the crowd asked Mrs. Hill her secret to getting such undivided attention and cooperation from teenage boys.

“My eyes teared up as I walked the halls and entered certain areas and saw all this beauty,” Mrs. Horton said. “The transformation is breathtaking.”

Aurora Latifi, Math Department chair, senior faculty member and den mother to two generations of Leo students, agreed.

“I’ve been at Leo 20 years,” Mrs. Latifi said, “and it has never looked better.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” 


But we wouldn’t be Leo if we weren’t also providing service, especially on MLK Day. So five members of the track team, under Coach Adams and Coach Mills, traveled to St. Margaret of Scotland to assist with a clothing drive.

Roosevelt Nelson, Lordan Black, Elijah Nowden, Jordan Watkins and Clarence Rhames helped sort winter clothes donations and prepare them for distribution to needy families in the area, as well as to migrant families staying in shelters and in desperate need of warm clothing as they await more permanent placements.

“What a nice group of young men,” said Pete Doyle, Pastoral Associate at St. Margaret and a former longtime Leo teacher who still helps coach track. “The drive was very successful in that we collected a lot of clothes. It would have taken us most of the day to sort them all, but with the Leo boys’ help we got it done in a couple of hours and started making deliveries to people who really need warm clothing in this weather.

“Plus they were a pleasure to work with. They really understand that service is a big part of being a Leo Man.”