Local elementary school gets a colorful, meaningful addition
The Santa Clara
September 27, 2018
A hand-painted mural depicting colorful flowers and the aspirations of an East San Jose community was unveiled at Washington Elementary School last week, with its beauty going beyond the surface.
The mural was the product of months of collaboration between Santa Clara students and members of the greater Washington area.
The project unintentionally began during the 2016-2017 school year, when Santa Clara offered a new community-based learning class, also known as an Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ), during winter and spring quarters of that school year.
Funding for the coursewas provided by a grant from Santa Clara’s Ignatian Center. Their program, the Thriving Neighbors Initiative, also grants money to faculty members who are interested in doing a community partnership.
Through these grants, professors Laura Nichols and Jesica Fernández were able to partner in teaching this ELSJ course, which requires 16 hours of community service from the students.
Nichols taught the course on campus to university students, while Fernández taught the course in Spanish to a group of community members comprised of local mothers in the Washington neighborhood area.
The two groups would then come together to collaborate on ways to solve issues in the Washington community.
Through Fernandez’s portion of the course, she had community members define three main concerns in their community.
A group of moms from the Washington neighborhood area gathered with Fernandez to brainstorm issues that they felt were the most prevalent in their area.
Through discussion and deliberation, the moms decided that the issues in their community they felt were the most important were affordable housing, neighborhood cleanliness and the inclusion and assistance of children with special needs in public school classrooms.
The brainstorming didn’t stop there. The next step in the process was to think of solutions to the everyday problems they were facing. This is where Santa Clara students came in.
Members of Nichols’ group interviewed community members to pinpoint ways to solve the three issues they had identified.
The students took photos to document the brainstorming process and paired it with their interviews to create a photo voice project.
The project visually depicted the time and effort that the community members put into making their neighborhood a better place for everyone.
Students also facilitated discussions where they brainstormed various ways that they themselves could help with the issues faced by the Washington area residents.
After the ELSJ course was completed, there was money from the Ignatian Center’s grant left over.
In an effort to make the most of the money they were given, Nichols and Fernandez got together with the community members and decided to create a mural at Washington Elementary School in an effort to express the issues they face everyday.
Community members welcomed the idea of a painting representing their time working with the Santa Clara students over the past months.
The mural would also spread beauty and perk up a once-bleak area of the elementary school.
Nichols stressed that although the mural would be a beautiful addition to Washington Elementary School, the project’s main purpose was to spread these womens’ ideas throughout the Washington community.
“The mural had their concerns depicted, and their aspirations for the future,” Nichols said. “The mural highlights the three main hopes they have for their community: stable housing, a community in which all children are accepted for who they are and a beautiful community in which everyone thrives.”
While on its surface, the painting may seem like a colorful addition to the elementary school, beyond the surface lies the aspirations of a community.
Fernández elaborated on some of the symbolism included in the mural.
“At the [unveiling of the mural], the group of moms shared how the butterflies in the mural represented their freedom and the ability to be able to live in a safe community,” Fernandez said. “It represented their change and how they have evolved over time.”
The mural was created by Carlos Rodriguez, a local artist, but the mothers and students from Washington Elementary School also contributed to various aspects of the colorful painting that will brighten up the community for generations to come.
Betty Uribe, one of the mothers who participated in this project and helped to design the mural explained what the mural represents for her.
“We all have the right to live in a safe place and have a house to live in, the house represents the desire for an accessible and safe home,” Uribe said.
Contact Sasha Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.