By Kim Primicerio
Sacred Heart University students involved in the Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program (AMP) helped Bridgeport middle-school students beautify their school this year.
Fifteen SHU students volunteer at John Winthrop School in Bridgeport every year as part of AMP, a program run through the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning. The students mentor a select group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade youngsters, ensuring they are on track to succeed in high school. This year, besides the typical helpful work and activities, AMP coordinator Katie Prendella wanted the mentors to help enhance the school’s appearance. John Winthrop’s principal, Selena Morgan, suggested the group paint over some of the school’s old and unused lockers in the hallways, as well as the walls.
Groups comprising two middle-school students and one SHU mentor began brainstorming ideas for their murals. They went online for inspiration, Prendella said, and came up with themes. Once the students determined what they wanted to paint, they projected these images on lockers and walls and traced the images with pencils. Then the painting began. “It was like a giant coloring book,” Prendella said. “This was really a relaxing and therapeutic project.”
Students worked on the project after school from January to April. A parent donated paint for the project and what wasn’t donated was purchased. The outcome was 15 murals displaying colorful images of popular cartoon characters, book titles, positive messages and school spirit.
Next to science teacher Susan Beres’s classroom is a set of lockers aptly painted with pictures of rockets, planets, constellations, the periodic table and chemistry equipment. Kim Hena, an eighth-grade student who worked on it, said she went online to find ideas and enjoyed designing and determining where images would go on the lockers. She “loved everything” about the project.
Hena’s mentor, Linh Nguyen, a sophomore nursing major, said each constellation in the mural represents something from the Harry Potter book series. “Huge fans will really appreciate that,” she said.
Lucas Ferreria, a sixth-grade student, helped with a school spirit-themed mural that featured Winthrop’s mascot. It depicts an orange wildcat with students’ blue handprints surrounding it. Ferreria said the best part of the project was being able to paint his school, adding that it was also a way for the eighth-graders to leave something behind as they move on to high school.
Ashley Soules, a sophomore English major, was Ferreria’s mentor. She said she enjoyed interacting with the students and being around their positive attitudes. “I’m not just teaching them; they’re teaching me,” she said, calling the project “amazing.”
Seventh-grade student Eliana Llanos worked on a mural down the hall from the science room. Her group painted a set of lockers to look like books stacked on a shelf. They stenciled the titles and authors’ names on the lockers and then painted them.
“I really liked it. It allowed the students to be more creative,” said Hailey Hastings, a junior studying art and design.
Book titles were chosen based on students’ and mentors’ favorites, such as Othello, The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye.
Downstairs, sixth-grade students Jordan Teixeira and Chris Leite worked on murals depicting Pokémon and Moana, both popular cartoons. The youngsters said they picked those characters because they knew the images would make students happy.
Josiah Hardwick, a SHU sophomore, said he thought the project was a great opportunity for students to add their own “flavor” and creativity to the school. “Plus, they’re making the school look better,” he said.