A stark white hallway stretches through North Elementary, only interrupted by classroom doorways. But now bright blue skies, fluffy white clouds, smiling faces and budding trees in North Elementary’s first “Drug Free Coloring Contest” punctuate a walk down this once monotonous passageway.
Gracie Sury, third grader at North Elementary is the school’s first winning artist to have her “Color My World Drug Free” themed artwork transferred from an 8.5 x 11 white sheet of paper to a full-length wall feature when she teamed up with Southern Utah University graphic design student Tawny Caldwell.
Caldwell, a senior from St. George, Utah, collaborated with Gracie in an effort to combine her love of art and her desire to give to the community to finalize her Education Designed to Give Experience (EDGE) project.
Through the EDGE program, each student must design, propose and complete a hands-on project in the hopes of giving SUU graduates an advantage as they apply their education beyond the walls of the classroom. Caldwell recognized early on that the creating this mural at North Elementary could be applied to both requirements and further the experience she gained for both.
With the help of volunteers, Caldwell was able to transfer Gracie’s winning artwork to the barren wall, the first installment in the school’s initiative to teach students about saying no to drugs.
“While I was searching for an EDGE project I wanted to incorporate my love of art but also involve the community, doing this mural project has done both,” explained Caldwell. “I’ve learned to manage volunteers, create supply lists and communicate with all the people in between to accomplish this project. And it turned out beautifully.”
She added that her desire is to be a freelance graphic designer and this project has been very advantageous for her impending graduation from SUU.
“Being well-rounded and successful in completing a project is crucial to succeeding in my desired field. I am excited to come back to this school in a few years when even more murals will line this hallway, all artwork from children. Nothing brings more light to a space than a child’s drawing.”
But this project wasn’t just beneficial to Caldwell; Gracie also received a two-part lesson from winning the drawing contest. On top of learning about drug abstinence, Gracie learned an invaluable lesson about confidence, according to her mother, Jessica Sury.
“When Gracie came home the day it was announce she won the coloring contest, she threw the door open and shouted, ‘Guess whose the best artist in the world? I am! I even beat the fifth graders.’ This has been great for her self-esteem and she is excited to show it off to all of her friends,” said Jessica Sury.
With a cross-disciplinary focus, the EDGE requirement can, indeed, help students find the cross section between their studies and personal interests and ambitions in ways they may never otherwise invest the time and research to explore. Because of this, SUU's students graduate from the University and EDGE Program with a broader perspective of their knowledge and skills that will be applicable across disciplines no matter where their career carries them.