St. Mary students partner with seniors to create mural

For four weeks this spring, eighth graders from St. Mary School in Buffalo Grove walked the mile from their school to the Belmont Village Senior Living facility to create a mural that now hangs on the wall of the residence.

Students and residents spent 2 ½ hours each week together creating the piece titled “Garden Party.” Students, residents and staff gathered May 5 for its unveiling.

The school has an ongoing relationship with the senior living facility. Over Christmas, third graders made cards for the residents and eighth graders visited and sang Christmas carols.

“St. Mary School has been part of the Buffalo Grove community for over 160 years,” Principal John Fuja said. “I think it’s so cool when our school can give back to the community in a way that not only benefits our students but the wider community.”

Catholic schools focus on more than academic excellence, he said.

“Having an incredible community is also a really big part of what we’re trying to promote at St. Mary,” he said. “Service is really essential to what we are about as a Catholic school.”

Each resident worked with one or two students to paint square canvases that were assembled into a larger piece.

“Each of us made a separate painting and it’s all been put together,” said Judy Sommerfeld, a resident of Belmont Village. “We had a wonderful time together. They were a great group. Real sweet.”

Art teacher Paulina Pawelczyk-Metzger facilitated the project.

“It was really nice to see residents and students be open to each other, hearing the conversations, them exchanging ideas, working together, helping each other,” said Pawelczyk-Metzger. “Art connects people.”

Students said they enjoyed the project.

“We just really engaged with the older people,” said Olivia Metzger, one of the students who participated. “It was a lot of fun because they clearly don’t get a lot of visitors. You could see that when we came, they were always happy, talkative and stuff like that.”

“It was really fun,” said student Mia Michuda. “I think it was just really nice just to talk to all of them. I do have grandparents, but I don’t get to see them as often. It was really nice to see everyone and they were always smiling and having fun.”

Resident Gladys Hunter painted a butterfly on her canvas with the students.

“We worked side-by-side, a student and a resident. And the students were so friendly. We just had a wonderful time,” Hunter said.

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