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Local students from the Supporting Our Leaders (SOL) Youth Program at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan will be hosting a neighborhood forum on Friday, February 26 to discuss a new mural along Grandville Avenue.
Each year the SOL Peer Leaders program, which has been around since 2011, picks a new project. This year they are focusing on exploring Latino heritage and culture through art. They are working in partnership with the teens from the Cook Arts Center and the Elevating Voices program at the Community Media Center. In the past they've made a book, started a blog and hosted an immigration forum.
"Students have already developed three main concepts for the mural based on their own heritage explorations and from a smaller forum they held in December," says Rachel Lopez, Director for Youth and Parent Services at the Hispanic Center. "Now they're getting the community's feedback to those three designs and are also open to other feedback. Despite having a significant presence in West Michigan history and making up more than 15% of the Grand Rapids population, Latino youth do not have an opportunity to learn about and explore their cultural history or heritage in school. Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz will offer students the opportunity to explore these topics and to express their own perception of cultural identity through their art projects."
The peer leaders comprise about 20 students from local high schools who meet weekly with their program instructor, Javier Jauregui.
"The students participate in lots of small and big group discusssions. They've been working with student artists from Kendall to develop concepts, developing different mediums as well, spray paint versus regular paint or printing on a big screen to apply to the walll. They've been passing out flyers, ordering food and they'll be MCing the event. It's all student-led. It's they're first big community event in this year's program, " says Lopez.
"We hope to start cleaning the wall during Spring Break and paint this summer," says Lopez.
Community members are invited to come to the neighborhood forum this Friday, February 26, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. The presentation will be in English and Spanish and food and drink will be provided. The Hispanic Center is located at 1204 Grandville Avenue SW.