Making Education Impactful
Schools are the place where children are most shaped by their experiences, determining the people they will grow up to become. Students who feel welcomed and included when they step foot on campus can become empowered to work hard in school and then reach out to those around them in return to make a positive impact on their community.
However, the reality is that many of these schools are comprised of dreary buildings that can reinforce students’ dislike of their education. Not being motivated to come to school due the cold atmosphere of a campus makes pursuing their studies even more difficult for students who come from low-income families, as they are already faced with countless other barriers, such as their parents not necessarily being able to support them in their studies.
The key to making education more accessible for these students is to make them excited to come to school, by transforming their campuses with bright colors. When students come to school in the morning and see these uplifting murals, their entire mindset can be altered for the day, improving their mental health and making them more open-minded to the new, fascinating things they will learn in class. Furthermore, in a STEM-oriented education system, seeing these murals allows artistic students to gain an improved sense of self-confidence, as they see that art plays an important role in society. Not only can murals make education more exciting for students, but they can also influence the way students think and act.
Founded by Flo de Bretagne, Paint Strokes of Hope is an organization led by a group of people from all walks of life who are committed to improving education. They believe in art’s transformative ability to improve school communities, and strive to help Flo expand her projects to a national and global scale, so that more kids all over the world can benefit from the beauty of art. In order to paint more murals for underprivileged schools, hospitals, and disability centers that do not have the necessary financial resources, we rely on people like you to become a part of our project. Every donation makes a lasting impact.
Describing the origins of Paint Strokes of Hope, Flo explains what inspired her to start painting murals:
“Growing up in France, I was very shy, causing me to become more and more isolated in school. I felt like I didn’t belong and dreaded coming to school, which seemed like a dark, gloomy place. Painting was my escape. Seeking to compensate for my emotions, I painted with bright colors, representing what I hoped my life would become.
One day, a speaker came to my class, talking about how her daily goal was to spread joy to those around her, by smiling to people in the streets or doing simple acts of kindness. I was deeply touched by her talk, as she had acted like a ray of sunshine in the darkness of my childhood. From that moment on, I kept her message in my mind, knowing that one day, I too would strive to make a difference in the lives of children facing various challenges.
When I moved to California, I first started with a mural project at my children’s elementary school, painting a total of 11 murals representing the values of the school: respect, perseverance, cooperation, empathy, inclusion, integrity, responsibility, initiative, and resilience. My goal was to make school more inviting for students.
After finishing the project, I realized that there were so many more schools that could benefit from colorful murals. I then started contacting schools from all over the bay area, sharing my mission with them. So many of them were excited by the idea, but simply did not have the funds needed to pay for the expenses of a mural. I was driven to make this dream become a reality for these schools, regardless of their financial resources. As I painted one mural after the next, I was so grateful to be able to give back that “ray of sunshine” to children who are struggling at school or in their homes.
Continuing these projects for the past 8 years, I have painted over 100 murals from San Jose, to San Francisco, to Cupertino. While most of them are in schools, some of my murals also take place in hospitals or disability centers.”
When a mural project commences, schools select core values or themes that they would like the artist, Flo de Bretagne, to portray. Often times, students are involved in the brainstorming process, drawing pictures of ideas that they would like to see on their school’s walls. Flo de Bretagne then uses her artistic creativity to emphasize the school’s values through historical role models, symbols, and depictions of nature, while also incorporating students’ ideas. Murals can also be accompanied by quotes in English and Spanish that remind students to act with compassion, integrity, or perseverance. Once Flo starts painting, students are sometimes given the opportunity to participate.
While students watch Flo paint the first few strokes of color on the previously dull walls, they are thrilled to see their school suddenly become a vibrant, colorful place. Students are often very curious to find out what Flo has decided to depict in her mural. Rather than simply seeing the finished masterpiece, they are able to watch the process unfold each day. Seeing the hard work that is put into the murals inspires them to be resilient and persevering in school. Furthermore, being able to watch the steps of the process as well as participate makes them feel like they are responsible for the mural in some way and provides them with a sense of purpose and meaning, as they can point to a part of the mural and tell their friends how they came up with that brilliant idea.
Additionally, as volunteers and students work together to help Flo in the projects, they are united in their common goal, building bridges between them. For example, volunteer teams from local companies who help paint the murals not only give back to the community, but also serve as inspiring mentors for students.
After a mural is finished, students are reminded daily of the core values through the symbols and words on murals. Because these values become solidified in their minds, they are able to take action by incorporating the lessons they have learned from the murals into their daily lives. Just as students’ actions are positively impacted by murals, teachers can also be encouraged by the positive messages.