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Leaving a tall legacy behind

Eighth-grade art students design ceiling tiles of encouragement

Students Mitchell Dixon (left), Brandon Elefante, Brayden Lovett and Remington Lerette work on their "Be Yourself" tile in Jo ann Hamer's Reagan Middle School art class.
Students Mitchell Dixon (left), Brandon Elefante, Brayden Lovett and Remington Lerette work on their "Be Yourself" tile in Jo ann Hamer's Reagan Middle School art class.

DIXON – Eighth-graders Elizabeth Mays, Lizzie Ohme and Katrina Scarbrough have a message to every student, past or present, who walks down the hallway at Reagan Middle School, known as the “bridge to the cafeteria.”

“Be unique.”

The trio is one of a handful of groups in Jo ann Hamer’s eighth-grade art classes that are designing tiles to be placed on ceilings near the high-traffic hallway.

The project, known as “Pillars of Kindness,” is the last for Hamer’s eighth-graders – one that gives them the opportunity to leave a legacy.

Mays, Ohme and Scarbrough’s design shows a colorful random person dancing in front of a crowd of empty faces.

“Our message is, ‘Be yourself,’” Mays said. “You don’t have to be like everyone else.”

Other tiles are dazzled with encouraging phrases.

“Be brave.”

“Be generous.”

They will hang there “for a long time,” said Hamer, who has been teaching art at Reagan for 16 years.

Hamer tells her class to use phrases that encourage or express kindness, but each group is in charge of coming up with its own message. She said 12 tiles are hanging from last quarter, and another 12 to 15 will be hung this quarter.

“Our plan is to cover them all,” said Hamer, who was recognized last year in the Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year Program.

“I think the project gives students ownership in the building,” she said. “When they have ownership, they take better care of it. And they can come back at any time and see their work.”

The group of Caroline Costello, Ashley Knopp, Jarod White, Jaclyn Erb and Jordan Bonnette put the finishing touches on their design Friday.

“Be amazing,” the tile said with a shooting star at the forefront.

“We felt a shooting star was pretty amazing,” Bonnette said.

Costello added: “We’re telling everyone to be amazing; you have to go above and beyond.”

Hamer’s students hope the tiles will serve as a guide to new students when they begin their first day at Reagan.

“It’s going to be really encouraging for them to come to school and see messages from other kids that went here,” said Courtney Seagren, who worked on a tile that says, “Be involved” with Olivia Pultorak, Thailer Somsri-Betts, Mason Rhodenbaugh and Ally Staunchfield.

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