Communities In Schools launched a nationwide campaign today to support at-risk students and connect adults into communities of support by asking everyone to look closer and listen harder to our nation’s young people. “What We Are Made Of” will use the medium of mosaic art to connect and engage with diverse communities across the nation and illustrate the vital role we all play in seeing the story within every student.
Showcasing the work of renowned pop artist, Jason Mecier, the campaign features seven powerful mosaic portraits of students from across the country. Their stories represent a multidimensional view of the challenges students experience every day—ranging from school violence to problems at home to hunger. Each piece is assembled with objects from the student’s life that represent who they are as individuals and the supports that helped them succeed.
“Too many of today’s youth are painted in broad strokes, often labeled as so-called problems to be dealt with. As a result, their potential goes unrealized,” said Communities In Schools President & CEO Dale Erquiaga. “‘What We Are Made Of’ will demonstrate that when we take a closer look at this generation—when we go beyond labels and really examine the social and emotional factors that make these young people who they are—we begin to understand the richer story today’s students have to tell.”
Through this campaign, Communities In Schools will provide a platform for young people to share what they are made of and encourage adults to become part their community of support by using #WhatWeAreMadeOf and signing up at WhatWeAreMadeOf.us. On the website, people will also be able to dive deep into the mosaics and hear directly from the students themselves.
In addition to being featured on the website, the portraits will also spend the year traveling across the country to each student’s hometown and other select events to further raise awareness of their impactful stories. Communities In Schools is in schools full-time, developing one-on-one relationships with students and coordinating with the community. By working in partnership with teachers and administrators, school-based staff are able to address students’ immediate needs—from food and clothing to more complex needs like counseling and mentoring.
Joseph, featured in a portrait, is a senior at R.B. Stall High School in North Charleston, SC. Despite facing grief and challenges at home, Joseph balances working long hours with academics and athletics. “I worked long hours to support my mom and two younger brothers and tutoring has been a crucial part of helping me keep my grades and attendance on track while balancing my work schedule,” he said.
Joseph was paired with someone who supported his passion for art and invested in his future. That connection helped him create a structured plan to achieve his goal of attending art school for his dream career as an animator.
Anais, also featured, is a junior at Mendez High School in Los Angeles, CA. She battled with low self-confidence before meeting another school-based staff member in Los Angeles.
“Bullied throughout middle school, I struggled with body image,” said Anais. Now, she’s a confident woman who runs her own beauty and lifestyle blog, and dreams of going to either UCLA to become a broadcast journalist or to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.
Nationwide, students face tough odds – with studies showing that more than 60 percent of high school students say that feeling stressed makes it harder for them to learn and do their best in school. Communities In Schools has worked to tackle this issue – with 88 percent of their case-managed students within their network meeting academic goals.
The key to empowering students to reach their full academic potential often begins with schools helping them understand and nurture what is inside of them. According to a recent Aspen Institute report, social-emotional skills are linked to cognitive development.
“To adequately prepare students for success in school and in life, we must teach them competencies like self-awareness, responsible decision-making and relationship skills,” said Civic Enterprises CEO John Bridgeland, who served on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development. “Researchers have found an 11-percentage point gain in grades and test scores for children taught skills such as collaborating, listening and being empathetic, and persevering in the face of stress and challenges.”
For more information about the campaign, the mosaic portraits or the artist, please visit WhatWeAreMadeOf.us.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Pop Artist Jason Mecier creates one-of-a-kind mosaic portraits. He meticulously fabricates anybody out of anything, from Kevin Bacon out of bacon, to Honey Boo Boo out of 25 lbs. of trash. Jason’s artwork has been featured everywhere from Entertainment Weekly to The New York Times, on TV shows like Glee, Rachel Ray and TMZ, as well as music videos by Pink and Pitbull. His portraits are hanging in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museums and countless celebrity homes. For more information, visit https://thejasonmecier.com/.
Communities In Schools (CIS) is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future. Working directly inside more than 2,300 schools across the country, we connect kids to caring adults and community resources designed to help them succeed. We do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids—regardless of the challenges they may face—have what they need to realize their potential.