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Messages of hope

Volunteers who took part in a beautification of several restrooms at Prince Edward County Middle School (PECMS) and Cumberland County Elementary School hope that students returning to school will find a series of accented, imaginative art and positive messages to welcome them.

Jennifer Kinne, family and community outreach director at Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) said the three-day renovation program began July 16.

She said volunteers painted two walls in each of the women’s bathrooms, and used stencils to paint positive messages to students, such as “Always believe in yourself” and “Don’t forget to be awesome,” and decorated the mirrors to look like they had picture frames around the edges.

Kinne said they used the colors gold and purple as a nod to the school colors, in addition to a palette that included gray, white and black.

The quotes, she said, were generated after votes community members offered via a social media post from PECPS and a planning meeting. Lynnea Motter, PECMS teacher, compiled the quotes.

The Farmville Jaycees and the Farmville Walmart donated funds toward the project.

Kinne said there were between 20-25 volunteers during the three-day event, including a manager from Lowe’s and his wife.

“We had several parents, lots of staff, which was really impressive,” Kinne said. “Our teachers are on summer break and they came in on their days off to help paint, many of which don’t have children in the school, so they did it because they have such pride in the schools and in the children.”

About the students’ responses, Kinne said, “I hope they’ll be inspired.”

“Our schools, the buildings of course are older. So I hope this kind of gives them a sense of pride in the building, and will make them want to take good care of it. I think it will be good to see a little bit of color and a little bit of inspiration,” Kinne said.

She noted the recent installation of the mural from Monty Montgomery in the middle school hallway closest to the front entrance, which will be one of the first things students returning to school will see.

Kim Williamson, paraprofessional at Cumberland County Elementary School, said the discussion about creating inspirational artwork in the restrooms came the previous August, but it did not gain traction until a teacher shared a social media post where another school completed its bathroom makeover.

“I really loved the idea and wanted it to happen for our students,” Williamson said. “We needed to just jump in and get started.”

She said after asking principal Virginia Gills, who approved the project with open arms, Williamson rallied the help of parent volunteers, and they spent July 17-20 painting and stenciling the artwork onto the restroom walls. Walmart also donated to the project. However, they ran into an issue.

“That paint would not stick to the stall walls,” Williamson said. “We compromised by ‘confetti-ing’ the doors with paint dots and (volunteer) Breanna Meinhard saved the day by making custom door decals!”

Williamson said the art was a hit with students returning to school.

“The students were thrilled upon return today to see them,” Williamson said. “It was a great feeling to hear the squeals of delight and the ooohs and aahhs!”

She said volunteers hope to complete another set of bathrooms by winter break. Williamson also said there are plans underway where the art teacher will give students a chance to paint a wall of the restroom. She said those interested in volunteering, including students looking to fulfill community service hours, can contact the school at (804) 492-4212.

Warren Reid, president of the Farmville Jaycees, said he first heard about the PECMS restroom renovation project in June and early part of July.

“We were very excited about it,” Reid said. He said Farmville Jaycees donated funds that were set aside from the group’s mini-grant program.

“We thought that that would be the perfect initiative to give those funds over,” Reid said.

He said he believed the messages on the walls could offer students the empowerment and affirmation that can often lack during the middle school years.

“I think that a lot of those kids that age, they have certain issues with self-esteem, self-image, so I think that those small reminders throughout the day will be something that they can kind of go in, see this and kind of just uplift their day for a small bit of time,” Reid said.

Reid said the mini-grant program distributes funds once a year. He said the organization releases applications during the third and fourth quarter of the year, and the applicants, which are typically nonprofits, have between 30-60 days to return the application with the project in question and what the funds will be used for.

“We consider it free money,” Reid said. “And we don’t get as many applications every year as we would like to.”

He said the money for the grant program comes from proceeds from Live at Riverside and other fundraisers. He encouraged area businesses to support programs offered by Farmville Jaycees.