“Sometimes we discount youth, when really they have powerful thoughts and awesome ideas,” says Jessica Sierk, assistant professor of education at St. Lawrence. “Our youth can be change agents in our community.”
Embracing the ideas of young people is Sierk’s most recent project involving students at both St. Lawrence University and Canton Central Schools in a collaborative mural project. The supplies will be funded through the University and the Canton Community Fund, a nonprofit organization seeking to support local projects that sustain and improve the North Country community.
The inaugural project was jointly administered by Sierk with students in the Sophomore Seminar course Youth, Art, and Community and in partnership with Gregory Kiah, a Canton Central Schools art teacher. The course, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sophomore Journeys grant, will be administered on site, and the collaboration will result in the creation of two murals in the back of the building painted by both St. Lawrence and Canton Central students.
“I want to help students get out of the St. Lawrence bubble and into the community,” Sierk says. “St. Lawrence students will benefit by applying their learning in a community setting, while Canton Central students will benefit from having higher-education mentors and the opportunity to make a positive impact on their school environment.”
The project will also include enhancing the space with picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, benches, and planters with flowers. Sierk says the contribution of a mural to beautify the area and the chance for students to represent what they find to be important and relevant will help students recognize their voices.
Sierk says she is determined to make it a place where Canton students will feel like they can spend time with each other while building a community within the school.
“I want students of all ages to know that their voices matter."