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Mural depicts diverse cultural heritage of students

Unveiling to take place at 6 p.m. today

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - From this view you can see details of the mural, including the scale representing justice in the left foreground. Painting are Leticia Lopez, Frankie Garcia-Merino and Mallory Wilson.There are some kids in Sandy who have plenty to show about how they spent their summer vacation.

About 25 students at Cedar Ridge Middle School took part in the Todos Juntos Leadership Summer Program at the school.

Founded by Eric Johnston in 2000, Todos Juntos — which means “All Together” in Spanish — is a community-based organization in Clackamas County committed to academic success, leadership, recreation and healthy choices for underserved children. Serving the communities of Sandy, Estacada, Molalla, Canby and Happy Valley, the nonprofit organization offers summer camps and after-school programs focused on promoting academic success.

Part of the programming this year included a Hispanic Leadership Program, with curriculum borrowed from California‘s Cesar Chavez history curriculum. The program is an inclusive one. While Todos Juntos has extensive experience with the Hispanic community, many Anglo and other cultural groups are participating. During the school year, Todos Juntos provides homework clubs, gender specific clubs, soccer clubs, Latino clubs and more. The purpose of the activities is to offer resources and help students gain academic success.

The Hispanic Leadership Project specifically addresses the lack of access to Latino history and Latino mentors and strives to help the students gain an appreciation for cultural diversity. The program has four components: separate Latin Clubs for girls and boys, led by Hispanic mentors, the Cesar Chavez curriculum, service learning and a mural project.

For the summer program at Cedar Ridge, Todos Juntos partnered with Clackamas County Arts Alliance to contract with artist Rodolfo Serna to create a portable mural based on Cesar Chavez and his role as a civil right activist and community leader.

“We wanted to create a mural that would allow the students to get a feel for their heritage, and learn about Cesar Chavez and his principles of hard work, self-reliance and truth,” said Michelle Emery, Cedar Ridge’s site coordinator for the program. The students’ impressions of Chavez’s work were expressed in images and words such as strong, brave, justice, courage, strength, intelligent, humility and freedom. Serna captured those impressions as images on a layout for the mural. He present the layout to the students to ensure that everyone’s ideas were included in the mural.

And then the fun began.

Working on four 4-foot by 5-foot panels of lightweight fabric similar to that of which parachutes are made, Serna had the students transfer the layout onto a grid on the fabric, which the students painted.

“The biggest challenge is meeting each child’s needs,” said Emery. “They were all invested in this. It was a great way to communicate together as mixed cultures.”

Cedar Ridge Principal Nicole Johnston noted, “This was a great way to get the kids involved in history, to learn about Cesar Chavez, explore their creative side and have them learn about themselves. It was fun to watch it all come together.”

The mural will be unveiled at Cedar Ridge’s open house event set for 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, Aug. 31) at the school, at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Smith Avenue in Sandy. The mural is portable so it can be moved to the new middle school when it opens next year.

To learn more about Todos Juntos, visit todos-juntos.net.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Stacy Garcia-Merino and Meagan Wilson discuss a detail in the mural.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - From left, Mallory Wilson, Rylee Emery, Maegan Wilson, Leticia Lopez and Josh Heath work on the mural depicting what they learned of Cesar Chavez.