Boyertown West students spread positivity through art project

Ninth grade art students Jason Eidle, Randi DeWalt, Paige Wenhold, and school counselor Leandra Conklin.
Ninth grade art students Jason Eidle, Randi DeWalt, Paige Wenhold, and school counselor Leandra Conklin. Rebecca Blanchard — Digital First Media
The recently completed Positivity Tree now on display at Boyertown Junior High West. Each paper hand has a message written on it.
The recently completed Positivity Tree now on display at Boyertown Junior High West. Each paper hand has a message written on it. Rebecca Blanchard — Digital First Media

Several Boyertown Junior High West art students Randi DeWalt, Paige Wenhold and Jason Eidle decided they wanted to do something to promote positive attitudes and fight against bullying at their school. They began to research ideas and decided to create a Positivity Tree.

As a part of the project, students and staff would be invited to write positive or inspirational messages on the paper “leaves” and then the group of three would compile everything onto a bulletin board to create a tree for display.

“We wanted to do something to try and bring the community together,” said DeWalt. She said the main goal is to bring positivity and to let people know there are people out there that care.

“It’s just nice to have something there to let them know they’re not alone,” said Eidle.

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Stephanie Stamm, art teacher at Boyertown Junior High West, has been eager to share the news about the project her students have been working on — a project which will continue to grow. She said Principal Greg Galtere favored the idea so much so that instead of using a bulletin board, he has given permission for the students to paint the Positivity Tree as a mural at West.

Around that same time the students were discussing this project, Stamm went to the NAEA convention in New York and it was there that she found out about Students Rebuild Youth Uplift Challenge, which uses hands with positive messages on them.

The two ideas were combined and as of May 30, around 550 hands have been submitted – including submissions from teachers.

“We got a lot of hands that were actually really nice,” said Wenhold.

The teachers were given a specific color construction paper to differentiate from the student submission. The Positivity Tree is now complete.

School counselor Leandra Conklin worked with the students on the project and explained how she was the backbone when it came to the behind-the-scenes work, such as gaining teacher support and scheduling.

“It just shows character on these 3 students’ parts – to come up with this on their own, develop it – all three of them are just amazing students,” said Conklin. “It’s been a great idea. It’s in a great location in the building, every student walks past it. I think it was a very well rounded activity.”

She added how the school have taken part in No Place For Hate for the past 13 years, and this project has been well received by teachers and community.

The students said it took about a month to plan, two months to paint, and then came the work of adding each individual paper hand to the mural. “At the end, we needed more help than just us,” said Eidle.

Through the Students Rebuild Youth Uplift Challenge, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1.90 for every hand created. The donations will be made to save the children’s youth empowerment program in Nicaragua and Indonesia.

The team at West won’t be sending the actual hands to the Challenge, instead a photo of the tree will be sent with an indication of the amount of hands.

DeWalt, Wenhold and Eidle will be moving onto the high school next year as they enter 10th grade. Conklin said she plans to continue the project for years to come with future students.

About the Author

Rebecca Blanchard

Rebecca won't hesitate to tell you that she has enjoyed writing throughout her entire life. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she graduated from the professional writing program of Kutztown University in 2012. Rebecca joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in July of 2012 as editor of The Boyertown Area Times following her internship with the newspaper. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling and cooking gluten-free foods. Reach the author at rblanchard@berksmontnews.com or follow Rebecca on Twitter: @boyertowntimes.