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Stillwater high school art students create paintings for veterans

Stillwater NewsPress - 12/9/2023

Dec. 7—Stillwater High School art students received awards Monday for their dedication and hard work creating art for local veterans residing in nursing homes and assisted living homes.

Karri James is the Renaissance of Stillwater life and leisure director. James said Gary Boyington, a local veteran who organizes special events for nursing home veterans, had mentioned working with the high school art students to present paintings to the veterans he works with in the nursing homes.

James loved the idea, and since her daughter is a part of the SHS art program, she decided to reach out to the teacher.

"I called Shannon Peters (an SHS art teacher) and talked to her and asked her if she would be interested," James said. "What was really cool is she is a U.S. Army veteran, so she took it and ran with it."

Peters' Art III and Drawing II classes participated in painting for the veterans. The classes were given the prompt — honoring the military — and had free rein on their creativity.

"I believe this opportunity helped my students focus on something beyond themselves," Peters said. "I know the veterans appreciated the students' talents and effort, and it was a great reminder to my students to remember the people willing to make huge sacrifices for the sake of all Americans."

After the students worked diligently on their projects for three weeks, Boyington, James and Peters planned an award ceremony on Monday in the high school student center to celebrate the students and all of their hard work. James and Boyington prepared award certificates for all the participants, and they had special awards for the top 5 winners.

The first-place winner received a $50 gift card, the second- and third-place winners received a $25 gift card and the fourth- and fifth-place winners received a $15 gift card.

Peters previously created a poll that all SHS students had access to, which allowed them to vote for their favorite piece of art out of 13 selected pieces. Eight out of the 13 students entered in the poll attended the ceremony and received their certificate from James and Boyington.

"None of them even knew that they were going to get gift cards or anything out of it," James said. "They were all just happy to do it, it was really nice."

Peters said it is incredibly important for her students to have opportunities to create art to influence others.

"Many times, creating art tends to be a solo endeavor, so this was a wonderful way to recognize the service of our local veterans while allowing the students to express themselves creatively," Peters said. "Hopefully the residents appreciate the beauty of the art that the students made and realize that their dedication to our country will never be forgotten."

James said the residents at Renaissance of Stillwater loved and appreciated the paintings they received. James said she believes activities including her residents and the youth of Stillwater helps bridge the gap between generations.

"Everybody is so different, I mean the way people live and how times have changed and everything," James said. "But, I think that a lot of the residents are forgotten, whether they are veterans or not ... A lot don't have visitors or family, and I think having the younger generation come in and do something like this for them is honoring them, letting them know that they are still important, they are not forgotten."

The first place winner's painting is currently hanging up at Renaissance of Stillwater, along with four other student paintings that were picked by the veteran residents.

The other nursing homes will receive paintings at their annual Christmas party with Boyington. Each facility Boyington visits will get one of the top 5 winning pieces, and the residing veterans will get to pick a few extra pieces that were submitted by the students.

Renaissance of Stillwater hosted a Christmas party on Monday afternoon, and three of the art students were let out of class to attend the party and present their painting to the residents.

"They got to stay for the whole party — they got excused from class — and they got to just have fun with the veterans, eat pizza, take pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, all that stuff," James said.

James said she loved watching the students and residents mingle, and it was beneficial for the students to share their work and gain validation and appreciation from a different age group.

James and Peters discussed how beneficial the activity was for both the residents and the art students, and the two decided to make the activity an annual event.

"I am just very happy that this came together so quickly," James said. "I am so appreciative of Mrs. Peters because she really ran with it ... and she literally wanted to do it and changed her whole curriculum, basically, to have the students do this for us."

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