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During Catholic Education Week at the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), we get to see and experience the beauty and vibrancy of OCSB student talent through various events and activities across the city. I recently had the opportunity to hear about a heartwarming project from St. Patrick’s High School‘s art club. Here are the highlights of my conversation with OCSB Student Success Arts Consultant Katie Lewis-Prieur and St. Patrick’s High School’s Arts Department Head Mirella Frost.

Mirella: “I first heard about The Memory Project from my niece who studies art at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Her art class participated in it, and I thought it would be so rewarding, so I decided to propose it to my Art Club. The Memory Project is a non-profit organization that sends hand-drawn portraits to children living in refugee camps in Syria. Seeing as most of the students had studied portraiture with me in the past, they were so excited to participate.”

Katie: “It’s incredible when teachers get the opportunity to to craft such important and enriching learning partnerships that students can connect to. It deepens the students’ interest in the project and helps them feel that they are a part of something meaningful.”

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St. Patrick's students touch hearts in Syria

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Mirella: “Some of the students who participated come from the Middle East, so this was particularly rewarding for them. Ten of our students received a folder with a photo of a child. They all chose to recreate the children using graphite leads. WIth extreme skill and attention to detail, each student produced a remarkably accurate portrait of each child. They attached a photograph of themselves and a few sentences about themselves to each of the portraits before sending them off. Then we waited to hear back from them.”

Katie: “The anticipation must have been incredible! I love how this assignment allowed your students to learn a new art skill and used it to reach out globally. I’m seeing so much of this type of work across our schools in the Ottawa Catholic School Board. What happened next?”

Mirella: “Recently, we were sent a video of many of the children receiving portraits from around the world, including my students’ work. It was a tearful moment for my students and myself to see what an impact they had on these children. As an educator, these moments are priceless and so extremely rewarding. It’s more than just about teaching them to draw a portrait. It’s about creating global citizens. Each student learned that by creating their portrait, they were going to make a less fortunate child happy, and that’s what was important to them. I am truly proud of their efforts, and I am looking forward to participating in this project again in the future.”

Katie: “I’m also very impressed that your students sent a gorgeous piece of artwork of an eagle to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida in the wake of their tragic school shooting. I think that you’re building tremendous empathy for others with your students. Who knows what other people you are inspiring with this work. Congratulations on these great projects!”

Jonathan Juane is the Online Engagement and Multimedia Specialist with the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Communications Department. He manages the OCSB social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the OCSB Blog) and supports the organization in a variety of other functions. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Communications from Brock University and a Graduate Certificate in Marketing from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.


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