A defaced mural becomes a leadership lesson and symbol of community restoration

CLOSA students design the mural in 2006

CLOSA students design the mural in 2006

KidWorks’ mission is to “Restore at-risk neighborhoods, one life at a time.”  Recently, that restoration turned what could have been a heartbreaking act of vandalism into an act of hope and redemption.

In 2006, nine KidWorks’ youth conceived the idea to design and create a beautiful glass/ceramic/painted mosaic that now decorates a wall within an apartment complex where our Townsend Center had first been located.  

Creation of the mural was part of a leadership project that brought the community together in a powerful way. Students collected glass, plates and other stoneware from the residents in the neighborhood to symbolize the beauty of the community KidWorks resides.

Over the summer, the mural had been badly defaced with local gang graffiti.  The mural had long been a source of pride for KidWorks’ student alumni, current students and neighbors for over a decade.

Creating the mural using glass front the neighborhood

Creating the mural using glass front the neighborhood

David Benavides, our Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, saw opportunity for repair—and restoration while providing a powerful lesson in leadership for our youth.

“There has been an increase in gang activity and violence in the neighborhood surrounding KidWorks, and this typically leads to more graffiti,” David says.  “I met with one of the leaders of the local gang that was responsible for defacing the mural.  This gang member apologized that one of his own had defaced a sacred place in the neighborhood and offered to pay for the clean-up and become part of that effort.”

KidWorks youth work to remove graffiti

KidWorks youth work to remove graffiti

Erika Sanchez, our College & Career Coordinator, enlisted youth in our Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA) program to take the initiative to remove the graffiti and bring the mural back to its original beauty.  The students felt that because KidWorks students created the mural, they should also be the ones who restore it.

CLOSA’s mission statement is “bringing hope to our community through leadership and service. As Community Leaders of Santa Ana, we always seek to serve our community.”

The students felt that because KidWorks created the mural, they should be the ones who restore it.

CLOSA members who assisted with the clean-up are:

  • Alex Gutierrez

  • Yosely Ocampo

  • Cristian Vega

  • Crystal Velasquez

“Removing gang graffiti comes with risks, so communicating with those involved was essential to assure the safety of everyone who took part in the clean-up,” Erika says.  “We believe the restored mural will now continue to stand as a symbol of good in the community.”

This project was truly a life lesson of leadership in action.

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