Cazenovia College students paint for literacy at CazCares

Cazenovia College student volunteer Tom Poitras noticed the Story Room early literacy program at CazCares had a length of bare wall that would be perfect for a wall mural. Tom was volunteering at CazCares food pantry at the time, and looking for an opportunity to do more for CazCares.

The Story Room at CazCares provides a free preschool program in an open, drop-in format. Learning concepts are emphasized through play, learning activities and reading to children. The program is sponsored by Cazenovia Public Library, and also provides child care support for educational programs held on-site, such as Read Ahead adult literacy and GED programs, and Cornell Cooperative Extension family nutrition programs.

With the help of friends and fellow students JD Havrilla and Anthony Klish, Tom drew up preliminary sketches and presented them to Story Room staff Carla Zimmerman and Cindy McCall. Next a full-scale drawing was projected on the wall to be reviewed by CazCares director Gigi Redmond and CazCares board members. Work on the mural began in late April, and the students put in six to eight-hour days working hard to finish the project before CazCares's Annual Meeting, held May 2.

The mural was designed by Tom Poitras, and includes interactive elements like a ladder marked in inches and feet for children to measure their height. The central image is that of an open book with a garden blooming from its center. A dinosaur, a castle in the sky and other figures show children how the world of reading is a world of unlimited possibility.

Poitras felt the mural should be a pleasure to look at, as well as help promote reading, and stimulate the imagination. He also noted that the mural "could be a small child's first experience of seeing a painting or art up close and not in a book." A senior at Cazenovia College, Tom is an art major. He works mainly in glass but enjoys painting and figure drawing, and "anything related to art." Business major Anthony Klish is from Oneida, and is just beginning to pursue his interest in creating art. JD Havrilla is also a business major but "always seems to end up hanging out with artistic people."

The students say they have enjoyed working on a project that helps kids develop their imagination. "It means a lot to know I was involved in something that helps kids think and dream and imagine," said Anthony Klish.

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