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McHenry High School art students draw goodwill with public service projects

McHenry High School art students are using their creative skills to produce fine art pieces that not only are pleasing to the eye, but pleasing to the heart.

For more than a decade, art students voluntarily participate in two public service projects, one to raise money for pet rescues close to home and the other to share kindness with children all around the world.

After raising money for Boxer Rebound through a Pet Portrait Project before Christmas, McHenry High School art student volunteers just finished making portraits of orphaned children in war-torn Syria for the Memory Project, an international program to bring kindness to orphans. “We talk a lot as educators about social-emotional learning,” said Michele Zimmerman, art teacher at McHenry High School - West Campus and fine arts division assistant for McHenry High School District 156.

“This taps into their compassion and empathy,” said Zimmerman, who also sponsors the high school’s National Art Honor Society to which many of the student volunteers belong.

The student volunteers annually raise $1,000 for Boxer Rebound, a pet rescue organization, by creating pet portraits for donations of between $10 and $100, depending on the size and the art medium.

“It truly touches the lives of so many people and helps the rescue organization, Boxer Rebound, address the ever-growing situation of dogs and people in need,” said Lisa Curry, English teacher and reading specialist at West Campus who also volunteers with Boxer Rebound.

Students have also done similar fundraisers for Pets in Need and Helping Paws.

While the Pet Portrait project is helping art students build relationships in the community, the Memory Project allows them to have an impact worldwide. Zimmerman said McHenry High School art students started working with the program in 2008, and have created 300 portraits thus far.

The Wisconsin-based nonprofit Memory Project seeks out artists, provides photos of the orphans, then delivers student-made portraits to orphans. Memory Project workers then send back video to art students with reactions to the artwork, Zimmerman said.

This year, the student-made portraits are going to orphans in Syria, but the Memory Project provides portraits to orphans many different countries.

Because of the high demand for the portraits, Zimmerman had to find more students to help, and even alumni lent their talents to the project.

Those artists who participated in the Pet Portrait Project are: Emma Snyder, Naomi Castillo, Bailey Musnicki, Maya Wenc, Grace Wisniewski, Jeff Lin, Jorryn Zelek, Alicia Barry, Reese Vincent, McKenna Keegan, Avery DeGroh, Kacey Pepping, Elle Smith, Samantha Doversberger, Lee Warren, Madeline Friend, Giselle SanJuan, Lindsay Cone, Naomi Castillo, Reyna Sanchez, Ali Anthony, Alexis DiMaso, Joe Hissem, Jordan Gilmore-Merkel, and Emily Ptaszek.

Volunteer artists for the Memory Project are: Ali Anthony, Kylie Borck, Avery Bubser, Lexi Cox, Avery DeGroh, John Diedrich (alumnus), Tarren Garcia (alumnus), Jordan Gilmore-Merkel, McKenna Keegan, Hallee Kleimann, Jeff Lin, Tara Losch Roddy (alumna), Kennedi Lucas, Bailey Musnicki, Emma Pierce, Reyna Sanchez, Tyler Schweinberg, Mercy Smith, Emma Snyder, Cheyenne Turley (alumna), Kara Waddington, Lee Warren, Maya Wenc, Emma Westermeier, and Grace Wisniewski.