A student at Deering High School is founding a Kendama Club at Deering – believed to be the first such club at any Maine school – to bring diverse students together through a common hobby. Some eighth-graders at Lyman Moore Middle School are taking over their school’s news, creating a weekly broadcast to provide the student body with entertaining yet informative news about their school. A group of fourth-graders at Lyseth Elementary School plan to create poetry and work with a photographer to better represent the faces of the student body and express that everyone belongs and is important.
All these student-led projects – and more – are being made possible in the 2023-2024 school year with grants from Painting for a Purpose.
Painting for a Purpose is a local nonprofit organization founded by teachers. It brings creative people together to paint whimsical decorative items that they sell to raise money to fund service-learning projects led by Portland Public Schools students who want to make a difference. Students apply for the funding by writing grant proposals and can receive up to $500 to put their ideas into action. So far this school year, Painting for a Purpose has funded a wide variety of PPS students' amazing service-learning projects. Here are the projects, listed by school, with the amount of funding received and a brief description of each project:
PORTLAND ARTS & TECHNOLOGY HIGH SCHOOL (PATHS)
● Give Them the Boot: $500
Students at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) are looking to update their inventory of work boots, and Painting for a Purpose is happy to help. Having new, high-quality work boots will allow all students to participate in learning carpentry and building skills. Having a wider range of sizes will allow access for students who cannot afford their own safety boots, or who are visiting the trade classes, which work on projects for the school and homes.
DEERING HIGH SCHOOL
● The Deering Damas Kendama Club : $500
A student at Deering High School is founding his school’s first Kendama Club – believed to be the first such club at any Maine school. Kendama is a wooden Japanese skill toy that improves fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, and balance. “I am passionate about Kendama, as it is a hobby I have had for some time, and really enjoy,” the student wrote in his proposal. “I have shared Kendama with friends, family and strangers, and almost all have loved it. With this grant, I will be able to get Kendamas for people to enjoy and use, spreading awareness of this niche hobby.” He also believes that the Deering Damas Club will foster new friendships across the school by bringing together a diverse community of students at the school through a common interest.
● Deering High Gym Remodel: $218.65
Student athletes at Deering High School are stepping forward to revamp their gym to make it an inclusive place for all students to build healthy habits. “Many people are intimidated going into a gym, especially when it is filled with athletes who know what they are doing,” the students said in their proposal. “We want to make everyone feel welcome and like they belong in this new space because they do.” The revamped gym will be a space where all can feel comfortable trying out new equipment or routines.
● Deering Rise & Shine Café: $400
The Deering High School student-run Rise and Shine Cafe allows students to practice relevant work and life skills in a supportive environment. The continued support of this existing project by Painting for a Purpose will allow the students to expand their endeavors throughout the school and bring on more student staff.
CASCO BAY HIGH SCHOOL
● Book Club for Banned Books: $500
Seniors at Casco Bay High School are starting a Banned Book Club. They will be running a book club that will educate and spark conversations about access to literature, particularly about access to books with LGBTQ+ themes; the adversities that different communities face daily; and the polarization around issues within the media and beyond. Their club will bring together students of all backgrounds to develop a deeper understanding of their community. “We hope that this project will be able to help our peers understand more about how limiting materials such as books affects everyone in our community,” the students wrote in their proposal.
● Women in Trades: $360
A female Casco Bay High School student who is a welder is leading a group of students in a project to create t-shirts saying “Women In Trade,” together with the women empowerment symbol holding tools from welding, construction, masonry, and plumbing. The t-shirts will be sold at the school during family crew night in January but also can be special ordered. The money raised from the sale of the t-shirts will be donated to the Portland Arts & Technology High School (PATHS) to create a better image for women in the trade community and to support female students in the trade programs at PATHS. “This project will show support for those women who are in trades and it will get others’ attention that women can do a man's job and even do it better,” the student wrote in her proposal to Painting for a Purpose. “This project is so important to me because I am a female welder and I’ve been harassed while being in the trades and told I can’t do it when I always prove them wrong.”
● Anti-Racism Education for Children of America: $500
For this project, a Casco Bay High School student concerned about racial disparities in health care wants to help children gain awareness of the impact of racism through books that focus on children of color expressing self love. The student plans to distribute books, such as “I Love My Hair!” by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, at school events where parents are present. If there are any books left, they will be donated to elementary school libraries. “I am passionate about this problem because I myself am a first-generation person of color,” the student wrote in the project proposal to Painting for a Purpose. “This project will make a difference with parents with young children taking the book home and having the child read it or have it there. This is important because with these books, children can build a foundation to have a welcoming presence in society for everyone.”
LYMAN MOORE MIDDLE SCHOOL
● Moore-ning News: $500
A group of eighth graders in the Make It Happen! (MIH) program at Lyman Moore Middle School is taking over their school’s weekly news! Using humor combined with professionalism they plan to deliver current events, sports updates, and interviews that will provide students with entertaining yet informative weekly news. They will write and direct the daily news to be relevant and reflect what students find important to build connections throughout the school. MIH is a college-readiness program for multilingual students and these MIH students identified a need in their community, came up with a budget and time frame, determined the number of people who would benefit from the project and submitted a successful proposal in their own words to Painting for a Purpose to win this grant.
KING MIDDLE SCHOOL
● Culture Houses: $500
This project will highlight the culturally diverse student body of King Middle School and provide beautiful, functional homes for birds on campus. Each “culture house” will give students an opportunity to construct and decorate the bird houses with scenes that represent the wide range of cultural backgrounds at King.
LYSETH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
● Poetry and Photography Project: $500
Students in teacher Leigh Quigley's fourth-grade class will create poetry and work with a photographer to better represent the faces of the student body and express that everyone belongs and is important. They want to inspire kindness, respect, empathy and understanding to the entire school community.