The City of Early has been working throughout 2017 to improve McDonald Park, the original site of the Early ISD football stadium that the city purchased in 2015.   

The park already has a resurfaced track, new lights and a colorful mural celebrating the city, with plans for sand volleyball and basketball courts by next year. At Early Middle School, one group of students is working to make its own contribution to the space.   

The EMS Community Problem Solving club is a group of five eighth-graders at EMS who meet every Wednesday after school to, as their name implies, solve a problem. The program exists at many campuses throughout the country and around the world, and each group selects its own project.   

This year, the students decided to help the city finish McDonald Park. Kyle Ivy, Korbin Barr, Mya Johnson, Cooper Neal and Carson Hill have been meeting with city leaders and planning — they sent out an online survey this week, and will use the results to determine exactly what the project will be.   

EISD Gifted and Talented teacher Diann Biddle advises the Problem Solving group. “What they do is identify a real problem in the community, and then they have to come up with some challenges to conquer that problem,” Biddle explained. “The first three months are basically just the planning stages.”   

“We’re trying to find out what we’re going to be adding to this park,” Hill said. “We want to add something that will increase traffic and make more people want to go.”   

Johnson said that McDonald Park is about giving Early residents a nearby location to exercise, hang out and have fun without having to drive to Brownwood. “We talked to city leaders and they said one of the biggest problems in our town is civic pride,” Johnson said. “We have nowhere to hang out.”   

“Recreation is mostly in Brownwood,” Barr said.   

The students want to help Early address that — and, in the process, to leave a mark on their hometown. “I want to leave as big of an impact as I can here,” Hill said.   

Early’s group will compete against Future Problem Solving clubs from across the state next semester for the right to travel to the International Future Problem Solving Bowl in La Crosse, Wisconsin.   

The Community Problem Solving group said they will begin fundraising for their project in the near future. The City of Early will hold a dedication for McDonald Park before its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 27.