Tuesday July 17, 2012

DALTON

This year, a new artistic mural was installed near a group of plaques, both designed to honor student achievement at Nessacus Regional Middle School.

Located in a front hallway by the guidance department, the wall honors students who are members of the "Plus 10 Club" at Nessacus, which has been active for three years. Members are inducted if they have made a gain of 10 points or more on at least one of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System subject exams.

As an eighth-grader, Moesha Nhath, was not among a total of 117 students who were honored for their achievements on the Spring 2011 MCAS exams. But the wall is as much hers as it is theirs.

Nhath became involved with the mural project when eighth-grade math teacher, Madeline Baker, took note of Nhath's artistic aptitude. At the time, Baker and a fellow science teacher, Amy Gelinas, were collaborating with their students on a project for a combined class.

"During the execution of our project, I discovered students who were very artistically creative. As a math teacher, I don't often get to see such artistic creativity in my classroom," Baker said.

During that same time, Principal John Martin was looking to design a wall to honor the Plus 10 Club. Baker posed the idea of having students work on the project.

Ultimately, Nhath stepped forward and led a team of three other students, Marilee Munn, Selena Schilling and Jonah Schichtl, in creating a mural based on Nhath's design. It was created in a two-week period, with much of the work done voluntarily, outside of school hours.

This summer, Nhath, a rising freshman who will attend Wahconah Regional High School in the fall, returned to Nessacus to reflect on her work, with her friend, Schilling, 14.

"I'm really excited about it because I've never left my mark at school until now, and I've experienced a lot," said Nhath, who has been drawing and painting since age 2.

The art student said that her focus in life is not only to continue making her own art, but to help her peers and others to find confidence and realize their potential.

"I want people to show their natural selves," said Nhath, who is also known for her impromptu sketches and painting portraits of her classmates.

"She's amazing," said Schilling, who let her friend draw an elaborate design of a wolf with butterfly wings in Sharpie marker on her back.

"Kids are not perfect, and a lot of kids in school get picked on. I try to stick up for them," said Nhath, "I want them to know, that they don't have to be shy about showing their own talents. Sooner or later they're going to go somewhere with it, if they start believing in themselves at an early age. When you feel like you can't go on, art can be a relief."

Baker and the two young women agree that though schools do their best to offer art classes and projects in the academic curriculum, there often is not enough time or resources to allow for more in-depth art experiences. Nhath and Schilling said most students tend to develop their skills by doing work on their own time.

Nhath has an iPhone camera roll filled with photos of her work, from sketch book pages to art she has made for people's homes and as gifts. The young art student said her goal is to continue to strengthen her art skills at Wahconah to prepare for the future.

"I want to go to college and get my art out into the world and be someone," she said.