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New mural gives tunnel a facelift

St. Mary's Elementary School students helped members of the University of Minnesota, Morris' Education Minnesota Student Program chapter complete a mural in the tunnel between St. Mary's and Assumption Catholic Church. (Katie Thomas/Sun Tribune)

Correction: This story originally stated that the tunnel goes between St. Mary's Elementary School and First Lutheran Church. The tunnel actually goes between St. Mary's and Assumption Catholic Church. We apologize for the error.

MORRIS – The tunnel between St. Mary's Elementary School and Assumption Catholic Church got a facelift over the weekend thanks to a group of University of Minnesota, Morris students and students at St. Mary's.

On Saturday, April 13, members of UMM's Morris’ Education Minnesota Student Program chapter completed an “Outreach to Teach” service project at St. Mary’s. EMSP painted the teacher’s lounge, provided new chairs, and created a mural in the tunnel of the school that connects to neighboring Assumption Catholic Church. Students use the connecting tunnel on a daily basis to eat lunch in the church.

“I attended a conference last July where past and present educators painted an entire school,” said Corey Johnson, co-president of EMSP. “It was a great project and I wanted to do it on a smaller scale here at Morris. We picked areas that we thought needed attention.”

Over thirty UMM students volunteered to work on the projects at St. Mary’s. Volunteers began painting the tunnel and removing the wallpaper from the teacher’s lounge on Friday night. Additional volunteers worked all day Saturday by painting, assembling chairs and helping St. Mary’s students add hand prints to the mural.

The mural is a sky view of St. Mary’s, with the students hand prints serving as the clouds. An airplane is flying over the school with a banner that reads “Go St. Mary’s.”

“We were very excited to hear about [EMSP] wanting to do a makeover for St. Mary’s,” said Jennifer Shockley, St. Mary’s principal. “They have worked really hard at getting everything together and it is great to have that college connection.”

While staff and students were not told many details about the projects, students were asked to stop by the school between noon and 2 p.m. to add their own personal touch to the mural. Students were given the opportunity to add their hand prints to the mural and see the mural in progress.

“I think the mural is really cool,” said LaRae Kram, a fourth grader at St. Mary’s. “The tunnel was really boring before and it’s cool that [future] students will see our hand prints.”

The project was funded through a Community Leaders Learning Through America’s School (CLASS) Grant from the National Educator’s Association – Student Program.