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School mural depicts legacy of kindness

Georgetown Middle sutdents, staff and families use art to fight bullying
January 3, 2014
Georgetown Middle School parent Karen Swain, left, designs a book jacket for the mural with her son, Kole Swain. BY MOLLY MACMILLAN

Students at Georgetown Middle School, joined by school staff and families, are using art to fight bullying.

In a project designed to encourage participation, confidence and accountability in stopping bullying at the school, the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation invited artist John Donato of Lead Your Way Solutions to involve the entire school community in a week-long project.

Donato organized the mural with a goal of 100 percent participation by students, faculty, administrators, staff and interested parents. Working mostly during school hours in 50-minute blocks of time, each artist created a personal book jacket illustrating kindness.

"This crystallizes their thoughts and their commitment," he said. "This is going to be a mural that hangs in their school forever, and they are determining what they can do.These book jackets will fit together to create a mural as a lasting legacy of the school's commitment to stop bullying.

Still, leaving a lasting impression is just one aspect of the outreach activity, Donato said. He hopes the mural will remind students of the personal accountability they take on with their kindness design.

Caroline Davis, an eighth-grade student at Georgetown Middle School, said she liked the concept and was happy to contribute.

"I think it's cool," Davis said. "Our school is kind of boring, so I feel like this will make it stand out."

Her father, Dustin Davis, added to the mural after the school posted an invitation inviting family participation. "I think it's awesome that everyone can get together to do this and put their own personal touch on the wall," Dustin said.

Bringing this activity to the Indian River School District middle schools is just another form of outreach for the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, said public relations director Doug Phillips.

"Part of our mission is to provide arts for all," Phillips said. "To act on our mission we want to go out into the community to give children exposure to the arts in a way that is participatory."

After spending the first weeks in December completing the Kindness mural, Georgetown Middle School unveiled the work to the community just before Christmas.

As a full house toured the school, mother Nickoll Abbott surveyed the students' work.

"I think they did a really good job," Abbott said. "You just have to think about what each child was thinking, and what kindness means to them."