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Colorful mural lifts school

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SAN DIEGO — A phoenix symbolizes hope, renewal and rebirth.

The eighth-grade students of St. Katharine Drexel Academy thought the mythical bird would make a great central figure in a mural they would be creating as their class project on campus. After all, the K-8 school was born four years ago when two neighborhood schools merged into one. And the students had selected the phoenix as the new school mascot, replacing the crusaders.

The academy hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural on Nov. 10 attended by students, staff, school volunteers and special guests.

“We thought it would be cool to have a mural on this campus,” said Principal Kelly Bonde, introducing the artwork that graces two sides of the main building. “You can see it from the street. This is how we will welcome everybody to campus.”

She explained that a former teacher at Blessed Sacrament Parish School, one of the schools that merged into the academy, is a board member of a nonprofit organization that partners with schools to paint murals. She thanked the teacher, Mike Trunzo, for connecting the school to the agency, called ArtReach.

An artist with the organization, Nina Lubarsky, held workshops with the eighth-graders to brainstorm ideas for the mural. She integrated their ideas into a digital design that itself was fine-tuned with input from teachers and staff. Once finalized, they all learned how to paint from the artist, then got busy painting the mural. The project took four to five weeks from start to finish.

The mural shows a bird soaring in front of the sun, its tail feathers trailing below. Native plants, such as poppies and aloe vera, and a busy bee, complete the nature scene, all bathed in warm reds, yellows and greens.

A representative of San Diego Council District 9, Sean Elo-Rivera, presented the eighth-graders certificates from the city.

In an interview after the ribbon-cutting, one of them, Elaine O’Connor, noted that she painted some of the leaves on the mural.

“It was really fun getting to collaborate with everyone,” she said. “And seeing the final product when you’re done painting it is really awesome.”

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