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Santa Barbara’s 2020 graduating high school seniors can be described as nothing short of resilient. These students’ high school years have been marked by several disaster evacuations from the Thomas Fire and the deadly 1/9 Debris Flow, and now their senior year has been cut short by a global pandemic, forcing them to finish it off in home isolation.
Although no seniors will be able to experience the iconic graduation cap toss this year, the 466 seniors at Dos Pueblos High School will create a timeless version of the moment — a tile mural made up of 6″x6″ tiles, each painted by and representative of the 466 seniors and the way they would decorate their caps.
“We came up with this because we wanted something a little more permanent,” said Rechelle Ringer, a DPHS Foundation boardmember and parent of a 2020 graduate. “This shows resilience.”
She said the mural will be about 20-24 feet long and eight feet tall along the outer gymnasium wall that students walk past to graduation ceremonies. This mural will be there for years to come, so graduating seniors in the class of 2021 and on will walk past it on their way to toss their caps in their air.
The idea came from a school in Oregon that is creating a similar concept. Once the Dos Pueblos High School Foundation agreed on the project, planning and fundraising immediately went underway. The background will be light blue, with the 466 graduation cap tiles scattered throughout to mimic the aerial view of real caps in the air. The words “We are Resilient” and “MMXX” will also be part of the design.
“With our seniors losing so many rite-of-passage celebrations, we have been working hard to come up with ways to show that their school community cares,” said the school’s principal Bill Woodard. “The tile mural is a wonderful way to create a lasting tribute to our graduates.”
So far, just over $3,000 of the $10,000 goal has been donated to fund the project. Donations can be made here. The community has stepped in to help in other ways, too.
All 1,000 tiles needed for the project, for example, were donated by a mom of a Dos Pueblos sophomore who works for Tileco, a regional tile and stone material distributor. Parents and other volunteers have also committed to facilitating the student tile painting, too. The seniors will be placed in small groups to paint their tiles, and the groups will rotate throughout Memorial Day weekend to avoid overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a team of volunteers who are going to be there in shifts, and we’ll just do shift after shift the entire weekend until every student has had a chance to paint their tile,” Ringer said. “And we have volunteers who are going to paint the decorative tiles as well as the ones for students who are unable to come and paint a tile. It is important to us that every student is represented in the mural even if they can’t paint their own.”
She said that after students complete their tiles at the end of May, the mural installment will begin over the summer. If the pandemic allows, the foundation plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural in the summer before the students start college. If not, she said the ceremony would be held over winter break next school year so the seniors can still attend.