Stranger's Generosity Makes Santa Rosa Students, Displaced By Fire, Feel More At Home

How do you tend to view life and all its challenges? Are you a half-full or half-empty kind of person?

It is an old question that, six months ago, took on new meaning for the staff and students at Santa Rosa's Roseland Collegiate Prep. That was night half the school burned to the ground during the North Bay Fires.

"Over here, this was the high school quad with eight classrooms," Principal Danielle Yount said pointing to what is now a cleared plot of land. The newly renovated gymnasium for the six-year-old school with an enrollment of just over 400 was also destroyed.

Even faced with such difficult circumstances, Yount is choosing the half-full point of view.

"At least we're not starting from scratch," Yount said, referencing the handful of school buildings that remain standing. It was also fortunate, the principal noted, that RCP's students were able to find a temporary home in just a matter of weeks after the fire. The school set up shop in a building that most recently housed students from RCP's sister school, Roseland University Prep.

RCP's students said they were grateful to be able to return to classes so quickly and all under one roof, although there was something else under that roof they were not thrilled about.

"Everything's purple," senior Ramiro Sanchez noted. "It's not really our color."

Sanchez was not exaggerating. Everything in their new home was purple: the walls, the doors, the trim. Purple, of course, was the school color of RUP. RCP's colors are blue and green.

"This is not good," senior Hugo Palacios said. "It did not make me feel good."

"They wanted us to paint immediately," Yount said.

Yount sympathized with her students, particularly the seniors who are part of RCP's first-ever graduating class. Still, she had to explain to the students that, under the circumstances, painting the entire interior a new color was not a priority for the school.

Good thing, then, it became a priority for Nancy Ballard.

In 2011, Ballard started a non-profit, Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo. Her goal was to work with artists and interior designers to transform chemotherapy rooms, places where no one wants to be, into colorful, vibrant places that are at least a little more pleasant places to be. Over the past seven years, Ballard's team has completed 20 projects.

When Ballard saw the devastation from the North Bay Fires, though, she decided her 21st project would be something to help those victims. She began searching for a way to help and eventually cold called RCP asking what they needed.

"They said all we want to do it paint," Ballard said.

Well, Ballard could take care of that. Using her connections, she got in touch with a local contractor, Cutting Edge Painting, that was willing to donate the paint and manpower to tackle the job.

This past weekend, they replaced all that purple with RCP's blue and green.

Given the scope of all the work that still needs to be done in the North Bay in order to return life to something resembling normal, painting a few walls might seem like a small thing. To the RCP students, however, it's a big deal.

"We finally feel like it's ours," Palacios said. "Like our home."

"Many of them have lost everything they have," Ballard said. "I wanted to make their school they way they wanted before graduation."

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