Northampton City Briefing: New JFK mural invokes an ‘Imagined World’

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence.

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

A sign attached to JFK Middle School in Florence explains “Imagined Worlds,” a mural completed this spring at the school.

A sign attached to JFK Middle School in Florence explains “Imagined Worlds,” a mural completed this spring at the school. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence.

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence.

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence.

The completed “Imagined Worlds” mural at JFK Middle School in Florence. Photos FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 06-19-2024 12:50 PM

Modified: 06-19-2024 4:34 PM


JFK Middle School has completed a new mural located on the front of its building, made under the theme of “Imagined Worlds.”

The mural is part of a broader therapeutic art initiative lead by local artists Sharon Leshner of The Color Collaborative and Ryan Murray, an alumnus of the school. The Color Collaborative and Resilient Community Arts collaborated on the mural, with significant financial support from the Northampton Education Foundation.

Inspired by student explorations of the question, “What is a place where you can imagine feeling happy and safe?” the art initiative integrates a mental health-focused curriculum designed in collaboration with art therapist and illustrator Amelia Moore.

“The collage project offered students the chance to mentally go to their favorite place, which created a very peaceful environment,” said Emma Mendoker, an art teacher at JFK, in a statement.

In addition to the contributions by Leshner and Murray, the mural was also worked on by local artists Nellie Marshall-Torres, Mi Belitsky, SELF, and Gabriela Sepúlveda. The school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural on June 7, preceded by a tour of a gallery featuring artwork made by students.

In addition to the NEF grant, other sponsors of the project include D.A. Sullivan & Sons, the Mass Cultural Council and Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Families with Power celebration

Families with Power, a grassroots organization of low-income students and caregivers in Northampton, is inviting members of the public to attend its third annual Scholarship Award Celebration on Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. at the Florence Civic Center.

Following the launch of its book “Families with Power: Centering Students by Engaging Families and Community” in 2022, the organization used the royalities along with community donations to start a scholarship program that supports the educational goals of high school graduates, young adults and parents/guardians who participated in Families with Power and its programs, who have financial need, and who pursue post-secondary education or training.

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In its first two years, the scholarship program has awarded a total of 13 scholarships of $500 each.

This year, the program will provide additional aid to five students who previously received scholarships while studying the fields of computer science, pre-med and marketing.

Four new students studying in the fields of health care, psychology and education will also be granted scholarships.

NHS lands skills grant

Northampton High School has received a $186,000 Capital Skills Grant from the state to update the equipment of its woodshop and materials technology program.

The school was one of 65 schools to receive such a grant this year, with the state distrubuting a total of $15 million. Established in 2018 under the administration of former Governor Charlie Baker, the Capital Skills Grant program provides funds for upgrading technology and industrial lab space in the hopes of being able to provide additional career training for students looking to go into trades or engineering programs at college.

Northampton High School Principal Bill Wehrli said the school’s current woodshop and engineering facilities were out of date and did not reflect current industry standards.

“We seek to build students’ skills and knowledge in technical fields and provide opportunities for the exploration of career and educational pathways that lead to high-demand jobs in our area,” Wehrli said. “By updating the equipment and facilities we will be able to provide more specific experiences with safety, design, production processes, and career exploration to enhance students’ knowledge, understanding, skills, and dispositions that are necessary for success.”

Capital Skills Grants have also been awarded in the past to the nearby Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, with grants going toward building a new horticulture building after the previous one was destroyed in a fire in 2022.

Students win prizes in C-SPAN’s video docs

C-SPAN recently announced that students at Northampton High School are 2024 honorable mention prize winners in C-SPAN’s 20th annual StudentCam competition.

Jasmine Phou will receive $250 for the documentary, “A Woman’s Right in the Eyes of the Law,” about Roe v. Wade.

Jane Harrison-Millman and Shira Sweet will receive $250 for the documentary, “Closing the Gap: The Next 20 Years,” about the gender wage gap.

C-SPAN, in cooperation with its cable television partners, asked middle and high school students to address the theme, “Looking Forward while Considering the Past,” through one of the following prompts: In the next 20 years, what is the most important change that you would like to see in America? Or, over the past 20 years, what has been the most important change in America?

Now in its 20th year, this project-based learning experience gives students the opportunity to explore multiple perspectives on topics that are important to them. In response, over 3,200 students participated, and C-SPAN received over 1,600 entries from 42 states and Washington, D.C.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.