For a school that prides itself on its ethnic and cultural diversity and its hospitable ambience, it is hard to imagine a much better summer project than this: Maine East students painting a mural that greets visitors by proclaiming "Welcome" in more than a dozen languages.
The project came to life through the combined efforts of Maine East Principal Mike Pressler; Kathy Malyszko, a social worker at District 207's School-Based Health Center; and the Rotary Club of Park Ridge, which financed the effort.
Malyszko had expressed interest in a mural project involving students, and Pressler suggested a large mural on the landing of main staircase in the rotunda proclaiming "Welcome" in a variety of languages.
"She liked the idea and ran with it," Pressler said. "We got some assistance from a number of staff members, students and their families, and friends of the school in verifying the translations.
"The maintenance staff was outstanding in helping devise a way to safely create the mural on large panels that could be mounted after students completed their work," he added.
"The artist-in-residence worked with us incorporating the color scheme employed in the original 1929 terrazzo floor of the rotunda. I am extremely pleased with the finished product."
The mural was designed by artist Gino Savarino and painted during a period of three days by more than two dozen Maine East students.
"Every year the Health Center invests time in constructing a creative project that provides students with a summer activity which fosters a sense of pride among students and their connection to the school," Malyszko explained.
As school resumes, the mural will be positioned in a front hallway, immediately adjacent to the rotunda inside the main entrance.
The mural's greeting appears in Arabic, Assyrian, Bulgarian, English, Gujarati, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Malayalam, Mongolian, Polish, Russian, Serbo/Bosnian/Croatian, Spanish, Tagalog and Urdu.
Rotary Club President Pat Ahern said the $2,000 grant for the mural came from the local Club and the Rotary International District. She said Rotary, as an international organization, recognized an opportunity to help celebrate the international flavor of a local high school.
"The motto of Rotary is 'Service Above Self,' and we feel so fortunate to help these students and teachers accomplish their artistic ideals," Ahern said.