SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – While many kids are spending their last few weeks of summer down the shore or working part-time jobs, a large group of South Plainfield High School (SPHS) seniors have been busy leaving their artistic mark – literally – on the wall.
In mid-July, students began working on the Class of 2017 Hallway Painting project, an annual tradition snce 1997 that allows incoming seniors to paint a designated section of wall space within the high school. Appropriately located in the senior hallway and based on the theme 'Class of 2017 Takes on the World,’ this year's project features a strong superhero presence with one side of the hallway bearing artwork specific to South Plainfield High School and the other side pertaining to world events, issues and trends.
“We are a generation that has experienced so much and we wanted to come up with something that encompassed as much as possible,” said Student Council Vice President Caleb Kuberiet.
The high school-themed wall features artwork to represent the school’s sports, academic and social clubs; several inspirational quotes; and the class year painted in green and tiger print orange and black. There is a Superman SPHS Tiger soaring over the doorway to the media center and a superhero-themed football, band member, color guard and cheerleader. A ‘brick wall’ is also planned and will feature the names and photographs of those seniors who gave of their time and talent for the project.
“Our class is really special and really unique. We have a lot of talent here – musical talent, artistic talent, academic talent, athletic talent – and it’s on the walls,” said senior Liz Lee.
Over on the world side, the superhero theme continues. There is a gay pride wall; a think green wall; a black pride wall featuring the Superheroes Black Panther and Storm; a patriotic wall featuring the New York City skyline at sunset with Superman, Captain America and the Statue of Liberty; and a nationalities wall depicting Olympic rings along with the flags of the many different countries South Plainfield’s students represent.
“The goal is to create something that expresses the class as a whole,” said Student Council Secretary James Joyner. “I think we definitely were able to do that here.”
The Class of 2017 project also features a wonder woman wall created by Jenna Dickerson with the inspiration quote ‘In a World of Ordinary Immortals You Are A Wonder Woman’ and paintings of female superheroes. “There are a lot of women’s right issues going on and I felt female superheroes are always underrated so I wanted to bring them here and make them cute,” said Dickerson.
Additionally, there is a tech wall where Ironman and Cyborg welcome students to the computer lab; a media wall that showcases current and popular characters and trends; and a special tribute to Mohammad Ali, David Bowie and Prince over and around the doorway to Exit 11.
“Somewhere on these walls there is something that represents something for everyone and in a positive way,” said senior Alex Frontz.
Through the hallway project, the Class of 2017 also pays tribute to former high school employees. A list of current retirees will run down a side wall and Al and Debbie Czech will be honored with quotes and a photograph. There is also a caped superhero rendering of the late John Dreher carrying a physics textbook and a lunchbox.
“The kids are doing an amazing job. I love the superhero theme,” said South Plainfield High School Assistant Principal Kelly Richkus, adding, “More than anything, I love the tribute to Mr. Czech and, of course to our beloved, John Dreher.”
Principal Ron Spring added, “The Senior Hallway Painting Project is a great way for students to leave a positive and lasting mark on the high school [and] this year’s theme of 'The Class of 2017 Takes on the World' is a way for the class to express their determination and desire to succeed in our ever evolving society.”
According to Kuberiet, there are also several ‘Easter eggs’ – intentionally hidden message, pictures and words – on both walls. “There are a lot of small things we want people to try and find on our walls,” he said, adding, “Not only are they looking at the artwork, but it can also be like a scavenger hunt.”
On average, between 40 and 50 incoming seniors have been on hand at the school each day since July 18, many coming in as early as 8 a.m. and staying until 1 p.m. The project, which is being run by Kuberiet and Joyner will assistance from Student Council President Nick Torchia and Treasurer Ryan Stanka, is expected to be complete within the next two weeks.
South Plainfield High School teacher Allison McLaughlin, a co-advisor to Class of 2017, said the students involved with this year’s hallway project have done a really good job not just with the artwork but also in terms of participation.
“They could be spending their summer doing so many other things but they chose to be here, working together,” McLaughlin, who was at the school July 29 lending a hand, said, adding, “Caleb really took the lead role, spoke to the administration, called a meeting and got this going. It was all very impressive for a teenager.”
For Frontz, who worked on the gay pride and spirit walls with classmate Lee, the hallway project is something she has been looking forward to ever since she was a little girl. “I remember my older cousin telling me about it,” she said. “It was always a goal of mine wto be part of this and to create something that represents our class. I always liked how the walls look and now I can look back and say I actually worked on ours.”
Lovely Hills, who put her time and talent into the black pride wall, said all the hard work she put into making sure the drawings and paintings were just right is well worth it in the end. “It’s going to make me happy and I am excited that I get to see it everyday,” said Hills.
“I love art and I love being involved,” added Dickerson. “Here, I got to leave a mark and will see it everyday as I walk down this hallway. How cool is that?”
For Joyner, who relocated to the borough from New Brunswick in the sixth grade, South Plainfield will always be home. “Everyone was really welcoming when I moved here and to me, our class has always been one big crazy family,” Joyner said. “We are not the same, but we all bonded together. This is my family and being a part of this, leaving a mark for others, is something I am very proud of.”
Kuberiet, who has served on the student council all through high school, said he is proud to be a part of the project and the way it came together, but admits it is a little ‘bittersweet.’
“It’s a weird feeling, being a senior. I get to leave a mark with this beautiful artwork but, at the same time, it is beginning of the end,” Kuberiet said, adding, “There’s a quote on the wall that says ‘We Do Not Remember Days…We Remember Memories.’ I think that really depicts what this upcoming year is going to be about.”
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