Student-Created Art to Empower Youth

Meagan Colvin, Wyman/Brown School practicum student facilitating the Teen Outreach Program® at Brittany Woods Middle School in University City, recently participated in “Faces of Hope”.  This annual celebration of community partnership and impact is hosted by Washington University’s Gephardt Institute for Public Service.  Meagan showcased a project that brought together WU students and 6th and 7th graders from Brittany Woods to design and paint a youth-driven mural for their school.   The project provided an outlet for the ideas and ingenuity of these teens to shine. 

Article by Meagan Colvin

Washington University MSW student and Wyman Practicum Student, Meagan Colvin, presents her work with Brittany Woods Middle School’s mural project.

When youth have the ability to dream and creatively work with caring and facilitative adults, beautiful outcomes are made. The Urban Education Initiative’s (UEI) Arts ‘N Smarts Mural Project was an example of such collaborations. The goal of the initiative was to provide an opportunity for social work students to work with teens from a local public school to create  a meaningful community project and to empower youth through the creation of their own community-themed mural. The result of such collaborations is nothing short of amazing.

The target of this project was set for the Resource Room at Brittany Woods Middle School, a local school in the University City School District. This room is a space for community initiatives that engage students inside and outside of the classroom. As a result of this project, the office has been transformed into a vibrant community room for Wyman’s TOP and other after-school activities.

The new mural is an inviting component of the Resource Room at Brittany Woods Middle School.

Four Brittany Woods Middle School students and eight Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work volunteers were involved in the planning, design, and creation of the mural and the overall painting. After days of working hard on the mural, all volunteers and students involved felt energized and excited about the resulting wall.

While evaluating their work, students talked about their positive experience. One student came up to me after we painted the mural and gave me a hug while she sentimentally said, “This means so much to me–thank you.” Another student commented, “Students will be very interested in the mural and some may be proud that it was designed and created by their schoolmates.” They were ecstatic about their work and kept coming back into the office to see it, sharing the experience with their friends and family.

Wyman Teen Leadership Program at Brittany WoodsOur UEI volunteers also had a lot of encouraging things to say: “I enjoyed interacting with the students at Brittany Woods. My favorite part of the mural project was that the students themselves came up with most of the ideas for how the room should be painted.” Volunteers hope that as a result of this work, “Youth (and their families) will know that people in the community care about them. Youth will feel empowered to express their creative sides in the future.”

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