Avalon Continuation High School and Sharefest have partnered up again, this time with the generous help of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, in order to provide “Murals for Motivation.” This year’s art project is aimed towards elementary and middle schools across the South Bay. Avalon students, and Sharefest Interim Program Director George Wing, have partnered up with a local artist to provide murals for select schools in Wilmington. Last week I was able to catch up with Gulf Avenue Elementary principal David Kooper in anticipation of the mural being provided to his school this week. Principal Kooper is extremely excited to have Sharefest come to his campus in order to provide some much needed color to the walls of his school. The following excerpts come from an interview I held with the principal as he showed me around the Gulf Avenue campus, and pointed out to me the benefits that will be brought to Gulf from having Avalon students come in and create.
Rosie Parra (RP): Hello Principal Kooper! Thank you for meeting with me. Right off the bat, do you have a particular vision for the mural Sharefest will be providing?
David Kooper (DK): Most likely the mural that we’re going to be doing is bungalows 31 & 32, which we’re going to convert into a library, so the mural I’m hoping to receive will have something to do with literacy.
RP: Oh that would be nice; do you want it to have something to do with your school’s mascot, the eagle?
DK: The wall’s a very public wall; it goes across two different classrooms. Parents across our school see it at least twice a day. Because it’s such a prominent wall, I wanted to make sure that it is clean, expresses a point of view, and has something to do with Gulf itself – whether that is in relation to the ocean, a relation to eagles or birds, or a relation to literacy, which is what we’re about here – reading and writing. If we could find a way to create everything, that would be perfect. To be honest, the school’s a blank canvas. We have a lot of clean walls, but I want something that kids can identify with and of, and that will curb graffiti – and I want something in which we, parents, students, teachers, and the neighborhood in general, can find a source of pride.
RP: Do you think that it will definitely boost school spirit?
DK: Absolutely. You can’t help but have spirit, and it’s been proven that when schools have murals, those schools don’t’ get tagged. The kids take ownership, the parents take ownership, and they protect it. I’ve worked very closely with GAP and the city of LA to make sure that we eradicate all graffiti problems in the school and the area that surrounds us outside.
RP: Yeah I definitely didn’t see any kids writing on the walls on my way in.
DK: Exactly. Good things are happening in this school and these murals will help the school and the community surrounding it continue to celebrate the school’s success – academically and community wise.
And the school definitely has plenty to celebrate. It is in the heart of Wilmington, in a residential area that has huge pockets of affordable housing. While people outside of the community usually think of these areas as havens of crime, the Gulf Avenue community – the area surrounding the school – has worked hard to shift the attitudes toward the school’s success and presence.
Just five years ago, schools like Gulf had API (Academic Performance Index) scores in the 500s – which according to the Department of Education is below basic performance. Gulf now has a score of 805 (a score of 800 is proficient). This is evidence of tremendous academic growth, and Principal Kooper attributes that to the work of Gulf’s previous principal, Nora Armenta, and the continuing work of students, teachers, and parents.
Avalon students will also be able to take pride in their community involvement. Wilmington residents are certainly passionate when it comes to our town, so ideally Sharefest’s mural – and positive involvement from Avalon students – will provide the Gulf Avenue community, and the Wilmington community as a whole, with the proverbial cherry atop their sundae of success.
For a closer look at State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board projects, click here.
Written by Rosie Parra//YDA tutor