Milken student volunteers paint mural for Salvation Army preschool

Kayla Nickfardjam

Staff Writer

On a bright Sunday morning, while most would be curled up in their beds, Milken students abandoned their sheets for paintbrushes to make a valuable contribution to their community. Volunteers from Milken’s National Art Honor Society came together to paint a mural surrounding the playground of Westwood’s Bessie Pregerson Childhood Development Center. After three years of tireless fundraising through donut bake sales, the group finally had raised enough money to fund this ambitious endeavor. National Art Honor Society leaders Charlene Malekmar ‘19 and Ms. Mary Ellen Mortimer were then tasked with buying materials, assembling a team of professionals and coordinating with the preschool.

The Bessie Pregerson Childhood Development Center, funded by the Salvation Army is a state-licensed year-round preschool dedicated to serving the homeless residents of The Westwood Transitional Village many of which are military families. The preschool provides facilities for 70 children aged 15 months to five years and offers a full-day curriculum designed to meet the “individual, physical, social, emotional, cognitive and linguistic” needs of each child. The Center aims to prepare children and give them an equal playing field to establish ongoing academic achievement in later school years.

The project’s artistic side was largely made possible by the efforts and contributions of local muralist, Clinton Bopp, as well as former Milken parent and artist, Deborah Pitt. In addition to overseeing the whole project, Pitt was responsible for rendering the subject of the mural: a city featuring a grocery store, gas station and the facade of the Center itself. This image was later projected onto the wall and outlined with black paint to be filled in by the volunteers. Bopp, accompanied by his canine friend, April, who rested comfortably in a sling around his neck, taught the fundamentals of mural painting and assisted students in painting realistic trees and shrubbery. Mrs. Wendy Ordower, Director of Service, also pitched in to organize the students and led the group in a blessing for service learning to raise spirits.

The experience proved to be both meaningful and enjoyable for the volunteers. The seventeen students of all grades teamed up together to paint different sections of the “village.” Not a minute was wasted as over the course of five hours alone, the barren, blue brick walls transformed into a vibrant, scenic landscape. Volunteer Talia Gandin (21’) beamed, “Painting the mural was an experience that allowed me to use my love of art to help my community and create something meaningful.” NAHS President Charlene Malekmar added, “It was a great experience to use my art skills to beautify a preschool. I was also very happy to hear how grateful the community was when they saw the finished product.” On another Sunday, the dedicated volunteers returned again for a second time to finalize the project. With the final additions of flowers, butterflies and other last touches, the mural was completed on March 18th and is now ready to be enjoyed by the children for years to come.

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