BERWYN – The visions and ideas of more than 70 Berwyn middle-school students are now forever etched on a mural on the outside of Heritage Middle School.
The mural project, sponsored by Berwyn nonprofit group Youth Crossroads, was completed in August and officially unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 8. The 20-by-20-foot mural reflects the students’ thoughts of what their community means to them and includes paintings and mosaic tiles.
Youth Crossroads, which provides after-school activities and other programs for students in the area, reached out to Heritage to see if the school would be interested in partnering over the summer to work on the mural. Seventy-five students from both Heritage and Freedom middle schools collaborated in small groups to design portions of the mural.
Heritage Middle School Principal Allison Boutet said she was excited to work with Youth Crossroads on the project because her school is always looking for ways to beautify the building and create a more welcoming environment. She said she was impressed with the way the large number of students worked together to create the mural.
“This gives them a sense of pride. They’re excited because they feel they are leaving a legacy and that they gave back to the school,” Boutet said.
Chicago artist Sandro Murillo worked with the students to design the mural and complete the project. Part of the project was discussing the students’ various perspectives on their communities, including cultural and race differences and how they can better understand each other.
Sandra Gonzalez, youth development program coordinator at Youth Crossroads, worked on the project and said the mural includes images of landmarks, a rainbow heart, sports and music.
“They had many discussions about how the mural would impact the community and what they want the community to see,” she said. “It’s completely how the middle-school students envision Berwyn. It’s important that kids have an opportunity to create something. Art is a form of expression, and there’s no right or wrong. It was easy for them to dive right into the project. They were very hands on.”
The project was funded by a grant from the Berwyn Development Corp. It donated $2,500 to the project through its philanthropic program, which awards grants to local nonprofit groups. So far, over the two years since the program began, the BDC has helped fund 15 community projects.
Tony Griffin, executive director of the Berwyn Development Corp., said he was “amazed” at the talent of the students and how well the mural turned out.
“Youth Crossroads helps develop the next generation of leaders, so that’s important to our mission of increasing economic vitality in Berwyn,” he said. “In addition, we got to partner with the school district. Both organizations coming together make a great project for us.”
Gonzalez said seeing students from both schools collaborate helped unite them. She said they all looked very proud of the mural at the ribbon cutting.
“The kids love it, and they were so excited to see the final results,” she said. “I love it, and while it wasn’t easy to have all those students working on the project, it turned out very well.”