What do a rainbow, a dragon and a baseball player have in common? They are all emblazoned in bright colors on a wall at PS 18 in the South Bronx.
Members of the school community — including 4th- and 5th-graders, school faculty, staff from partner organizations, parents and even passers-by on community painting days — transformed a brick wall into a mural reflecting the diversity and values of the school and its neighborhood.
In September, the school, part of the UFT’s United Community School initiative, welcomed students and parents to the new school year with an unveiling ceremony and a backpack giveaway.
“I love all the possibilities that exist at PS 18 — the open-mindedness and the spirit of collaboration” said Jubetsy Minaya, the community school director, who works with educators, parents and students to identify unmet needs and leverage local resources and community partnerships to meet them.
Two partners, BronxConnect and Thrive Collective, helped make the mural possible. Partnerships with Operation Backpack and New York Cares provided backpacks and school supplies at the mural unveiling and other back-to-school events. The school also offers medical, dental and vision clinics; a food pantry; and baseball-centered after-school and summer programs.
“The students here are able to articulate their needs so we can meet them” through partnerships and resources, Minaya said.
Because baseball is part of PS 18’s culture — the school is just a mile and a half from Yankee Stadium — the sport is in the mural, explained the project’s lead artist, Peach Tao of the Thrive Collective, an arts organization that mentors students in city schools. The dragon is a nod to Chinese community members. Also depicted are people in traditional Mexican dress and a quote from African-American civil rights leader Malcolm X.
The rainbow is for a memory the students share of seeing a rainbow on the baseball field. “That’s a very beautiful moment,” said Tao.
Student artists addressed the event’s attendees. Mohammed enjoyed “working together with friends and family,” and Karen said her artwork would “always be a part of the school.”
Minaya enjoyed seeing these artists feel “a sense of responsibility to the students who will follow them.”
Some of those future students, including PS 18 Chapter Leader J’Neal Johnson’s daughter, even helped create the mural. “To stand there with my 3-year-old daughter and watch her paint, as well as see former PS 18 students come together and get this project done,” said Johnson, “I was able to experience history in the making.”