Blazing a Trail to College & Lighting the Way to Success

Many people have inscribed farewell notes in their classmates’ yearbooks, but how many people can say they left a positive message that will be seen by hundreds of students for years to come? This spring, Creative Art Works is proud to have helped two groups of students not only set their sights on college, but leave message of inspiration writ large for others who would follow their lead.

The College Access Mural at Pal Webster Center

PAL Executive Director and founder of the College Access program    Fred Watts    (back row center) at the unveiling of the new mural

PAL Executive Director and founder of the College Access program Fred Watts (back row center) at the unveiling of the new mural

Thanks to a College Access program at PAL Webster Center in the Bronx, several high school students will be the first members of their family to apply for college. In a gesture of gratitude, these seniors wanted to paint a mural that would inspire other students to aspire to college. Through a Creative Art Works after-school program, they painted mural filled with motivational images, including a graduation ceremony and a quote attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

The composition of the mural forms an infinity sign, and the warm and welcoming colors help to activate the Teen Room in the basement of the Webster Center.

The PAL College Access program offers a range of services, including academic support, assistance with completing applications and applying for scholarships and financial aide, interview prep, college visits, and more. Students who complete the after-school program are eligible to receive a stipend to assist with college expenses. The hope is that this first cohort of participants will lead the way for future students to attend college.

The completed mural

The completed mural

Our PAL kids expressed real pride and validation of their ideas and hard work. [Teaching Artists] Demetrius and Ryan did a wonderful job helping them develop skills, and this expressive outlet was fabulous. I am proud of our young people and staff, and feel indebted to CAW for this wonderful collaboration. The mural was beautiful and nearly brought me to tears.
— PAL Executive Director Frederick J. Watts

The Student Success Center Mural at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School

On April 13th, students at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School unveiled a mural that they hoped would encourage future students to strive for success after graduation. The mural is painted inside and around the entrance of the APRCHS Student Success Center. Despite being tired after a long week of final presentations and test prep, the APRCHS students were excited to present their vision to the public. Scroll down to read two of their quotes.

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A cougar, the school Mascot, explores the infinite possibilities of space.

A cougar, the school Mascot, explores the infinite possibilities of space.

The mural contains a variety of elements, including the school mascot, pennants representing colleges, and a variety of symbols representing various career paths as well as the school’s three academies: engineering, medical and humanities. After much discussion and many preliminary designs, the students ultimately decided on a deep-space theme to unite their mural.

As high school junior Muntafa Rahman explained, “In the end, we chose the space theme, because it represents endless opportunities. Scientists haven't discovered everything yet.”

The Student Success Center at APRCHS, which is operated by East Side House Settlement, uses peer counseling to help ninth through twelfth-grade students prepare for success after graduation. Working closely with APRCHS College Councilor Anal Cruz, two SSC college counselors and a team of eight youth leaders provide assistance with college planning, applications, and financial the aid process. The SSC also provides services to students who wish to pursue success via vocational training or other career paths.

You can see symbols on our mural that represent other types of career paths, because there are some students who might not want to go to college – maybe they have another plan, other options they want to explore, like vocational training. You have many wonderful options that you could lead to success.
— Muntafa Rahman
High School Junior    Muntafa Rahman    plans to pursue a degree in computer engineering, but he recognizes that college is just one possible path to success.

High School Junior Muntafa Rahman plans to pursue a degree in computer engineering, but he recognizes that college is just one possible path to success.

Rising Senior    Natasha Graham    believes that APR Campus High School will always make space for diversity.

Rising Senior Natasha Graham believes that APR Campus High School will always make space for diversity.

Our school is very diverse, so one of the things we really wanted to put in our mural is many different hands holding up a single flame, showing unity. No matter where you come from, or your background, we will always have space for everyone to be welcome here. Anything can be accomplished when we all work together.
— APR Campus High School Student Natasha Graham

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