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The writing on the stalls: Students paint messages of hope

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 23, 2018

Madison Smith paints a stall in the girls’ room Tuesday afternoon at Crossroads High School in Granite Falls, Wash. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald via AP) ORG XMIT: WAEVE203 (Kevin Clark / AP)
Madison Smith paints a stall in the girls’ room Tuesday afternoon at Crossroads High School in Granite Falls, Wash. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Herald via AP) ORG XMIT: WAEVE203 (Kevin Clark / AP)
By Kari Bray Daily Herald

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. – Students at Crossroads High School want their classmates to find hope in an unexpected place.

Teens from the leadership class painted the once-blue stalls in the school restrooms black. They returned with more brushes and pallets of colorful paint. The students spent hours decorating the stalls with vibrant pictures and inspirational quotes.

“Usually the bathroom is the first place you go when you have a bad day or need to get away from people,” said Kayla Land, who teaches history and leadership at Crossroads, an alternative high school that serves multiple districts.

“We just thought, why not make the bathroom the most positive place in the school?”

Madison Smith, right, directs Brianna Stockinger to the brushes Tuesday afternoon at Crossroads High School in Granite Falls, Wash. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Daily Herald / Kevin Clark)
Madison Smith, right, directs Brianna Stockinger to the brushes Tuesday afternoon at Crossroads High School in Granite Falls, Wash. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Daily Herald / Kevin Clark)

Brianna Stockinger and Brooke Hendershot, 17, and Madison Smith, 18, packed into the three-stall women’s restroom on Tuesday to paint. It’s a room they’ve all fled to when they needed privacy or a place to cry.

“The middle stall, that’s my place,” Smith said.

The next time someone goes in there to hide, the students hope their work will be a reminder that things will get better, and that no one has to be alone.

On the door facing the inside of the stall where she’s shed tears, Smith painted her favorite quote: “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.”

“We have a lot of students going through things here,” she said. “We just want to brighten people’s days.”

The students were finishing the upstairs restrooms last Tuesday and aimed to move on to the downstairs stalls next. The school common area is used for meetings and events, so the public can enjoy the art, too.

“When they said we were allowed to paint the stalls, I got really excited,” Stockinger said. “I love painting. This is a good way to give back to the school before I graduate.”

The black base coat covered up some sad or funny notes that had been scrawled or scratched onto the stalls, but the students didn’t find any mean messages, they said.

“We have a positive culture here,” Land, the teacher, said. “A lot of our kids come from backgrounds of not so much positivity, so we try to make a family.”

Alejandro Ramos, 17, just started at Crossroads this year. By his second day on campus, he’d been recruited to paint. The other students were amazed by his speed and precision.

“I like that so soon I’m getting to use talents that I really enjoy and make a mark on the school here,” he said.

With various hues of blue, he shaded bold letters in the men’s restroom that said “Rise Up.”

“I mean, anyone can spread a message, and everyone has to use the bathroom,” Ramos said.

Land watched the students work, happy with the way the images and words came together. She’d like to see similar projects at other schools, or in other rooms at Crossroads. She can think of at least one bland space.

“We should paint the teachers’ bathroom,” she said.

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