By Kayla McNamara
Director of Targeted Support Services
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley
For three rainy days in August, a group of young people overcame the elements to paint a mural that celebrates what their efforts were all about – working together to promote a message of unity in diversity.
Under the direction of local artist Irineo Medina, the project at Appleton Trophy and Engraving added a new element to Summer of Service, a service learning initiative led by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley’s Truancy Reduction and Assessment Center (TRAC), in partnership with the Appleton Police Department and the Appleton Area School District.
Now in its third year, Summer of Service is offering youth an opportunity to create art that can be enjoyed by the public, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation.
Summer of Service participants complete service projects at local community-based and nonprofit age
ncies, such as the City of Appleton’s Park and Recreation Department, Riverview Gardens and Rebuilding Together Fox Valley. Youth are assigned to one of three teams led by members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), with the supervision of Appleton Police school resource officers and Boys & Girls Club staff. Youth also complete a social accountability curriculum that is provided by counselors from Esprit Counselors, who meet with participants at the Appleton Public Library.
Research by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that increasing access to arts programs offers opportunities for children and youth to learn new skills, expand their horizons and develop a sense of self, well-being and belonging. These traits are associated with increased academic achievement and increased community engagement.
Not only are murals attractive to the local economy, but they also show the wider community that businesses are invested in their surroundings. When businesses support youth, they invest in the project to breathe life into the community, build relationships and forge collaborations. Building relationships with the people that live here will create a healthier, friendlier community.
After providing Summer of Service for two years, we (Officer Sean Kuether and I) decided it was time to branch out from strictly service projects and explore methods to create an even deeper impact among the youth we serve. Participating in the public art piece allows marginalized and disengaged youth to feel that they are a part of something bigger in our community. We are thrilled to see our students take pride in contributing to the art piece, particularly this image and what it represents.