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DHS, King Middle School Students Win Painting for a Purpose Grants

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DHS, King Middle School Students Win Painting for a Purpose Grants
Posted on 02/10/2016
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Painting for a Purpose recently awarded two $500 grants to students in the Portland Public Schools who came up with creative ideas to improve the quality of life for their schools, neighborhoods and communities.

One award went to the Natural Helpers at Deering High School who planned to use the money to offer classes to help their fellow students cope with stress. The other award went to students at King Middle School to aid in their plan to plant fruit trees in Portland to help birds endangered by the loss of their natural habitat.

DHS seniors Salim Salim and Siobhan Densmore accepted a $500 Painting for a Purpose award in December to allow the school’s Natural Helpers team to attend a local mindfulness and meditation training. The Natural Helpers, in turn, plan to offer classes in these lifelong skills to other students in the coming months to help the school community cope with stress.

“Each year we survey students about their concerns and managing stress always tops the list,” wrote Salim in the grant application, along with students Helen Bellafiore, Cassidy Bigelman and Avery Donovan.

“Our peers have so much going in their lives that they need some skills to de-stress and create focus,” they said. “Research in mindfulness meditation shows that the practice can make your grades better and improve working memory. Most importantly, though, mindfulness can help us to have better control over processing pain and emotions – and as teenagers, this is a skill that we all need to work on developing.”

Deering teachers Marisa Polk and Melissa McStay are adult allies for the project.

This spring, seventh-graders at King Middle School, partnering with city arborist Jeff Tarling and King science teacher Ruth MacLean, will purchase fruit trees and plant them outside their school building, as well as in Deering Oaks Park and nearby Evergreen Cemetery – thanks to the $500 award from Painting for a Purpose.

The students have been learning how bird species are becoming more and more endangered due to the loss of their natural habitats as part of a multidisciplinary learning expedition called “It’s For the Birds.”

Cited in the proposal was the prediction that many bird species in the United States will become extinct by the year 2080 and a 2014 National Audubon statistic that the habitats of 314 bird species are now endangered by human activity.

Student leaders for the project include Logan Andrick, Maddie Hurley, Magdalyn Hoffman and Lydia Stein. “We are currently finding all about how we can help our birds, and make our community better for the birds. We decided that planting fruit trees around the city would supply them with food, nutrients, and a place to live, and we are hoping to plant as many fruit trees as possible,” the student proposal stated.

Students added that they hope the project inspires King students and their families, as well as other Portland residents, to also plant fruit trees.

According to Painting for a Purpose founders Tina Clark Edwards and Jane Ellis, their group brings together artists, parents, students and educators to create and sell original art and objects for the home, many refurbished out of old furniture. All proceeds are invested in community initiatives that students propose and complete.

The 2014-2015 awards helped improve a neighborhood playground, underwrite student-managed food and clothing banks for their peers and an indoor greenhouse and support awareness of human trafficking and the needs of a residential treatment program, peer mentoring and international literacy, among other projects.

Edwards was a long-time consultant with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound in Portland schools and the statewide Kids Consortium. Ellis is a retired teacher and former director of Portland High’s Mentoring Alliance.

The two began painting and selling old chairs to keep alive a student grants program for elementary, middle and high school students and began recruiting local artists to help. Many gather on Wednesday mornings to paint together and create products. In years past, the proceeds of wooden wall clocks, candlesticks and other items, as well as grants and donations, have helped raise about $10,000 a year for student grants.

This year, more than 40 local artists have contributed to the “Cloths and Claws” theme that featured canvas floor cloths and wooden lobsters, along with other original art. “Painting for a Purpose celebrates the power of art and the power of young people to improve their schools and communities,” says Edwards.

For more information, contact Tina Clark Edwards at tinacedwards@gmail.com or 865-3642 and visit Painting for a Purpose’s website at www.paintingforapurpose.net/

PHOTO CAPTION: (From left) DHS seniors Salim Salim and Siobhan Densmore accept a $500 Painting for a Purpose award.