Tokay High School student Maria Cosyleon focuses on her brush strokes as she slowly writes “Lodi” in thick red paint. On a ladder next to her, Lizbeth Garcia follows behind, outlining the words “Welcome to Lodi Animal Shelter” in black.
Since school started in January, about a dozen Tokay art students have come to the shelter for two hours each day after school to paint a mural that will greet people as they walk into the dog section of the shelter. The mural replaced a plain yellow wall, and students put the final touches on it Thursday.
Yadira Herrera and Dayanna Gutierrez kneeled down in the hallway putting the final touches on the tongue of a dog that is licking a girl on the face.
The process has encouraged Herrera to volunteer at the shelter even after the mural is complete. She is glad that she and her fellow students could make the animal shelter more inviting, for both animals and pet owners.
“We are helping their home look better, and it makes people care about animals,” Herrera said.
Shelter Supervisor Jennifer Bender came up with the idea, and Carol Evans, a People Assisting Lodi Shelter volunteer, contacted Lucy Shebley, a ceramics teacher at Tokay.
“It will look so much better than coming in and looking at a blank wall,” Bender said.
Shebley was excited the shelter wanted to give the kids an opportunity to paint something that they will be able to come back and see in the future.
She turned over the project to her students, having some draw the initial sketches and some do the painting. Everyday, the students were in charge of getting their own supplies, and then cleaning up. They even came on days their teacher couldn’t make it, and invited their friends and siblings to help.
“We just wanted to have the kids help out in the community. Also, because they are art students, I wanted part of them to be displayed for people to see,” Shebley said.
Cosyleon got involved because she is taking some graphic design classes and has been practicing painting at home. Her favorite addition to the mural was a dog that turned out better than she planned.
Garcia said she enjoyed that everyone was allowed to participate regardless of their skill level.
“If you have an idea, just draw it where there is space and they won’t criticize you,” Garcia said.
Because she is allergic to dogs, Garcia said this is another way she can help out the animals.
“People will now be welcomed when they come in, not just see a yellow wall,” Garcia said.