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Learning Meets Community Need at Eastern Christian with Newark Airport Mural, Other Projects

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A recently installed mural at Newark Liberty International Airport was designed in collaboration with Eastern Christian High School graphic design students and features the images of EC students and teachers. The mural—titled Faces of New Jersey—is located in Terminal A, which has been redeveloped and renovated.

For Eastern Christian, the opportunity came as part of an open call seeking art that celebrates New Jersey. It represents “a breathtaking reflection of a dynamic learning environment where students and teacher push and encourage one another in faith toward serving the community, one that EC champions and for which I’m grateful to have experienced again and again,” shares Jesse Wright, adviser to the project.

Student artists include current and former ECHS students Ben Adamson, Dylan Alexandre, Valentina Codegni, Isabel Dennis, Christopher DeRooy, Jason Farraye, Olivia Fishburn, Nicholas Hagedoorn, YuXin Jiang, David Kim, Jayden Montero, Sarah Onufer, Kaitlyn Van Harken and Jiarui Wang.

Spanning a total of 240 feet, the EWR mural is the largest example of EC students marrying learning outcomes with community need, but it is certainly not the only one.

At the high school, Student Opted Academic Resources, a 40-minute activity period that meets four times a week, has enabled a plethora of creativity among faculty and students alike.

For example, the ECHS math club and math honors society, advised by Esther Kim, have partnered once again this year with non-profit organization Give Chances to tutor underprivileged elementary-aged students in math. While the goal is to reduce achievement gaps, Kim also sees it as an opportunity for EC students to “develop leadership skills through reaching out to the community.”

On the creative side, the newly formed Content Creators club, under the direction of Fernando Garcia, has signed on to rebrand ditto upscale retail. Meanwhile, Heart and Hands Club, advised by Faith Kerlen, worked together to manage a food drive for CUMAC, with plans this spring to orchestrate volunteer mornings serving various non-profits.

Aside from community projects happening during SOAR, teachers also utilize classes in a way that allows for real-world investigation and application. In Civics class this spring, for example, instructor James Uitermarkt will assign a Civic Action Project, where students must identify a civic problem in the community and investigate solutions, including studying local organizations poised to meet the need.

In journalism, taught by Leah Genuario, advanced students are encouraged to seek publication outside the school newspaper, which is how Rebecca Eshuis’s recent piece on inflation and local food pantries was published in Tri-State Voice. 

And in the music department this December, Amelia Makus directed the high school concert choir and eighth grade singers in performances at Longview and Heritage Manor in the Christian Health Care Center. It was the first time Heritage Manor welcomed a large group since COVID struck in 2020. She shares, “Students benefit by seeing people in different contexts. Their eyes are opened to the needs of people they may not often interact with. They see firsthand the blessing music is to others, particularly the elderly community. Songs stay in a person’s memory longer than anything else and folks will often start singing hymns or carols with us when they may not remember much of anything else.” 

ECHS Principal Dan Cirone adds, “Eastern Christian School emphasizes nurturing students to become Christ’s transforming agents in a global society. I am thankful for the work of our innovative faculty to see this mission become reality.”

This article was reprinted with permission from Eastern Christian’s blog. For more information on Eastern Christian School, visit www.easternchristian.org.