The parent-teacher association at Westchester Elementary School in Catonsville led a project that had local elementary and middle school artists painting positive messages on bathrooms at the school.
“The entire Westchester community regularly works together to find ways in which to encourage and motivate our students to do their very best,” said Phillip Byers, principal of Westchester Elementary School.
The idea to provide motivation through art came up during an April PTA meeting, Byers said. Parent Katie Harris enlisted the aid of young artists from the Catonsville area schools to create murals in each student bathroom as a summer project, Byers said.
“I originally saw something on Facebook about a year or so ago of a school down in the South with art teachers painting the stall doors and I loved the idea,” Harris said. “We have all been kids before and know how hard times can be when you are a kid, and more so over the past two years.
“Everyone needs encouragement and daily positive reminders about themselves and I thought this was a good idea for our school as well,” Harris added.
When Harris first asked Byers about this effort, he said it wasn’t the right time, Harris said. Then, she attended the April PTA meeting and again raised the idea, as her daughter was moving up to fifth grade and wanted to try to do this before they were done at Westchester, Harris said.
“It was at that meeting [Byers] gave me the green light,” Harris said. “That week, I posted something on my Facebook account and got a lot of comments on it; and then it was shared to the local Catonsville Facebook group, where it was flooded with support as well.”
Harris set up an online form for people to sign up and get emails regarding the project, Harris said. Volunteers met at the school in early May so they could tour the school and see the bathroom setup, Harris said.
“Collectively we ... talked about what we needed and some ideas we were looking to do in the bathrooms,” Harris said. “After discussion of the stall doors, we decided the [bathroom] walls would be a better area — less prep. With input from the group, we selected 10 positive messages and I got Mr. Byers’ approval.”
The community donated paint, and area students and parents volunteered to paint the messages. Several people from the area dropped paint off to help make this project a success, Harris said.
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“It was fun to have others help and it was great to see present and past students coming in to give back to the school,” Harris said. “I truly hope the kids love it as much as we loved doing it for them.”
Some of the students, like Sam Riggieri, 14, who is a10th grader from Catonsville High School and an artist, participated because of opportunity to express their artistic skills while earning learning service hours.
“Sam, along with other high school students, needs service learning hours in order to graduate in a few years,” said Liz Riggieri, Sam’s mother. “We thought this was a perfect opportunity that perfectly balanced her natural talents in interest with the needs of the community.”
Grant Baldwin, a fifth grade student from Our Lady Perpetual Help in Ellicott City, participated because he wanted to give back to the community while doing one of his favorite things — painting, said Trish Baldwin, Grant’s mother.
“Making a difference in how the bathroom looked with an inspirational quote was my way of giving back to the community,” said Grant Baldwin. “I thought it was super fun to paint on a wall.”
Baltimore County Public Schools opening day for the school year is Aug. 29. Westchester has not announced any other projects before the school year, but the school’s community is excited to see how these inspirational messages will impact these students, Byers said.
“We look forward to seeing the reaction on our children’s faces when they return at the end of the month,” Byers said.