MESA, AZ — LeAnn Slade teaches art at East Valley Academy and Crossroads in Mesa.
"I knew I wanted to do some sort of collaboration that could really unite the campus," said Slade.
The small school serves a few hundred 7-12 graders who have fallen behind, are considering dropping out, or may be overwhelmed at a large high school campus.
"For it to become a big collective like it is now like, it’s amazing," said Kiya Love, who graduated from EVA in December. "It’s kind of surreal to even think about it."
Love is one of several students featured on the mural that now graces a wall on campus. Slade spearheaded the project this school year.
"At first I didn't really want to participate that much," said Gabriel Ikener, one of Slade's students. That changed once he picked up a brush.
"I was more open minded about it and that creativity, I mean, you can see it, it's all over the wall," said Ikener.
A lesson that goes beyond bright colors and self-portraits, celebrating the unique qualities and experiences these students bring to campus.
"Working on the mural together and seeing us painted side-by-side, it's kind of created this kind of family," said Love.
"There's a lot of experience and a lot of things to celebrate and the students, with their ability to persevere, to be resilient," said Slade.
This school year has been all about resilience, but students like Love hope future classes will see the same message.
"It's a beautiful representation of what our school actually represents, and the unity and diversity inside," said Love.