Leadership through Public Arts: Eight High School Students, Two CY Corps Members and One Mural

Today’s guest blogger is Emmet Elliott, New York Civic Engagement (NYCE) Service Leader. Emmet serves as a Project Planner on the Civic Engagement team.

Every time I come into school, I can look up and be proud. I get to say ‘I did this!’ –Annika, 9th Grade Student, BASE High School, Brooklyn

Walking around the community looking for schools and community organizations to host a community service day is not the choice task for members of the NYCE team. Most walk-ins are fruitless, and people rarely have time for two paint-covered strangers talking about free benches.

That was the task of the day when my teammate Crosby Newcomer-Falk and I walked into Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, or BASE, hoping to build them a rooftop garden. As usual however, no one could speak to us, so we left our project menu expecting that to be the end of it.

Luckily for us, I received an email a few days later inviting Crosby and I to meet with the Principal, AP and Student Council. After being thoroughly impressed by the student council’s presence and ideas, and realizing the school would not fit a corporate service day, we began brainstorming alternative methods of getting BASE their mural.  After throwing around a lot of ideas we pitched the idea of a five week after-school program training the students in painting their own mural. The school was on board.

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In addition to preparing, designing and painting a mural branding their school, the eight students in the program participated in a variety of trainings and discussions centered on the topic of leadership. Students talked about the functions of a healthy team, took the MBTI test and crafted their own leadership statements.

The completed mural was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. And, at the end of the program, City Year and TowerBrook Capital Partners came together to provide the students with a day of professional development to top off their achievement. The students, adding the student council to their ranks, were invited to the TowerBrook offices on 55th street and work with upper level professionals on their resumes and interview skills.

[This was a] really wonderful experience. [I] would love to follow up with the group top help them succeed in any way – through mentoring or professional development. -TowerBrook Volunteer

IMAG0181The scene of teamwork, collaboration and mentorship is hard to describe. Words cannot do justice to the spirit of common humanity exhibited by both the students and professionals. Resumes were created and perfected, mock interviews were given, emails were exchanged and laughter was shared by all. It is the only service day I’ve been to where all the volunteers left saying “this was too short, we needed more time.”

Easily my favorite complaint of the year.

To learn more about BASE, please visit: http://www.basehighschool.org