Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 23, 2013

Picturing success

Art project encouraged Kokomo teen to aim higher.

An unfinished mural in the halls of Kokomo High School gave senior Trevor Douglas a reason to come to school every day and a reason to aim higher in life.

On Wednesday afternoon, he picked up a paintbrush, dipped it in gray and blue paint and slowly filled in the outline of a sleek skyscraper in the Kokomo High School hallway.

As he worked, students passed by him and admired his creation.

“Lookin’ good,” one student said.

Douglas smiled. He can’t help but smile, he said.

He long ago lost track of the number of classmates who have stopped to stare at the mural he is painting at the school. So many have paid him compliments he’s not even sure he deserves.

“It makes you feel so good,” he said. “It makes me want to keep going with it.”

Months ago, teachers at the high school asked Douglas to design and paint a mural in the school that symbolizes education and its components.

He was surprised they even thought of him, he said. There are so many talented artists at the school, but Douglas said he couldn’t turn down their request. So, he quickly sketched a design that included skyscrapers, a book, a paint palette, beakers, a ruler and even a globe.

The project gave him a new purpose at school.

“It makes you want to be here,” he said. “It gives you a reason to be here.”

Douglas admitted he struggled in the classroom. Grades have always been a problem, especially in math.

“Me and math haven’t always gotten along,” he said, with a laugh.

No matter how hard he studied, his grades never reached higher than C’s and D’s, he said. So his plan was to graduate a semester early with his general diploma and enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.

However, with this new project, he couldn’t really do that. He had to stay in school for the rest of the year.

He took some extra classes to fill out his schedule.

Douglas enlisted a teacher’s help to get through his Algebra II class; he now has a 77 percent. He brought his other grades up to A’s and B’s. There are actually more A’s than B’s, he pointed out.

And May 31 he will graduate along with about 450 of his Kokomo High School classmates. But it won’t be with the general diploma he once thought he’d get. He’s done enough in the last semester to earn a Core 40 diploma — the state’s college readiness diploma.

Douglas’ plan is still to join the Marines after school lets out. But he said it’s nice to know that college is still an option.

He can see himself going to art school and opening up Trevor’s Studio some day — something that never crossed his mind before.

Principal Rick Hagenow called him a “fine young man.”

He said Douglas is a good example of how different students learn in different ways. For Douglas, it’s through art.

“When you give them a chance to show what their talents are, they’re more engaged in all aspects of school,” the principal said.

Douglas said that was true. That mural was the catalyst he needed to finish high school strong.

Douglas has worked three or four hours a day for weeks on his mural and will return even after he graduates to finish it up. He said he wants it to look just right. Hagenow understands why. This is the legacy Douglas will leave at the school. Even thinking about that made the teen smile.

“I want to be able to come back in 15 or 20 years and see that was the mark I left,” he said.

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