In March, approximately 80 freshman formation students spent time in class analyzing their understanding of and perspectives on inequality, marginalization, awareness and advocacy in the Loyola community. The result? A vibrant mural that spans two walls and serves as a visual reminder of the project’s theme—building an inclusive school community—and of students’ commitment to each other.
“The mural contains artistic representations of times when students have felt ‘less than,’ coupled with messages of what they will do to ensure we maintain an inclusive community,” says School Counselor Mr. Michael Sneed ’99 who led the project.
“This project taught us that when we all work together using individual ideas, we can make something special,” reflects freshman Dean Ehlman.
Bright colors, positive images and affirming mantras pepper the mural:
“Unite. Embrace. Change.”
“Pick your head up.”
“Courageous conversations live here.”
“We play fair.”
“All are welcome.”
A large portion of the left side of the mural addresses support strategies for students feeling marginalized.
“Things to do when you feel marginalized,” it reads and outlines the following action items: “Be proud of what makes you different; confront the injustice; express your feelings; educate others and be patient; join a student organization; talk to an adult or counselor; join a support group.”
The class mission statement, what Sneed describes as a daily pledge of the things students stand against, also makes its way onto the mural: “In this room, we pledge to be conscious of recognizing and celebrating our differences. We will build an inclusive community by advocating against: bullying/harassing jokes and comments, social exclusivity and assumptions due to background/income/family structure.”
The project enabled students to address complex issues with a creative and collaborative approach. “I think this exercise was a fun way to get students to apply the things discussed in class to our environment at Loyola,” says Michaela DiVito ’20. “We got to create an art piece...which is far more memorable and encouraging than filling out a worksheet or listening to a presentation.”
"My favorite part about painting the mural was the limited amount of rules," says Rosie Talaga '20. "This gave students the freedom to express anything they felt was important. The message of the mural is that even though everyone is different, we can come together—working for justice and making a difference in our community."
The Formation Program is designed to enhance Loyola Academy’s distinctive Jesuit mission and vision. Students at each grade level participate in weekly formation sessions, which explore academic, personal, social, health, wellness, college and career topics relevant to high school students. The curriculum is developed and facilitated by school counselors and, at times, by college counselors and includes exercises in reflection, mindfulness and cooperative learning, as well as projects, presentations, guest speakers and discussion. To learn more, click here