Eyerusalem Gebresenbet described the sections she painted as she proudly looked at the large, colorful mural that covers the west outside wall of the Kent Meridian Pool earlier this month.
“I worked on the hockey player and painting the library and ShoWare Center,” Gebresenbet said.
Gebresenbet was one of a dozen incoming seniors to Kent-Meridian High School and Kent Mountain View Academy who designed and painted the mural this summer as part of the King County Work Training Program in partnership with the city of Kent Parks Department.
Students used a working title of “Our world, our city, our community” to come up with the ideas to turn a blank concrete wall at the city-owned pool into a bright mural that is 12 feet high and 70 feet long.
“It’s a very cool mural,” said Brian Rockwell, a city parks program specialist. “It has all kinds of cool images from Lake Meridian to Mount Rainier to farmland and Kent Station that represent the city.”
Students spread out to take photos across the city to come up with ideas for the mural. They worked with professional artist Louis Chinn of San Francisco to learn how to design and paint a mural. Chinn also worked with the program last year that resulted in murals at the intersection of Southeast 240th Street and 104th Avenue Southeast as well as at Glenn Nelson Park on the West Hill.
“I painted the lake and lifeguard,” said Radhiyya Roun, an incoming Kent-Meridian senior. “I went out and took a snapshot of a lifeguard.”
Students spent the mornings of the six-week class learning job readiness skills such as managing time, writing resumes and interviewing. They worked in the afternoons on the mural.
The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Labor and the nonprofit Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. The program’s goal is to provide work experience and job training skills to high school juniors from lower income families to help them transition in to college or employment, said Moncef Belgacem, a caseworker for the King County Work Training Program.
“This is the first job for most of them,” Belgacem said.
Gebresenbet, a senior-to-be at Kent-Meridian, learned valuable skills.
“I think it’s a really good program,” she said. “They let you be creative and you learn to work as a team and manage your time. It’s a good work experience.”
It took the students about 13 days of working four hours per day to paint the mural, Rockwell said. They finished the mural in mid-August.
“It’s a pretty major project,” Rockwell said. “They took the design and did gridlines with chalk in each square and then painted the squares and added details.”
Roun and Gebresenbet each heard about the program through friends.
“I’d recommend that junior students do it next year,” Roun said. “It’s a really good experience. I learned more about myself and how to be self motivated.”
The students also took field trips to the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center and to learn about rock climbing. The mix of class time, field trips and painting a mural brought the students closer. They also designed and painted four directional signs on the Kent-Meridian campus to help people find the school’s Performing Arts Center.
“It kind of felt like a little family,” Roun said. “It was really fun. I enjoyed it. It was sad it had to end.”
But the results of their work continues.
“It’s a community mural,” Rockwell said. “It represents the voices of the students and what they wanted to say to the city.”