Huntington High School’s Art Honor Society has gone international with a really neat project that involved submitting 14 gorgeous portraits for children in Syria living in a refugee camp.
Huntington Art Honor Society members teamed up with the Memory Project, a charitable non-profit organization that encourages art teachers and their students to develop and donate portraits to youth around the world “who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, disasters, extreme poverty, neglect and loss of parents,” states the group’s website.
“We want the portraits to help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well-being, and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future,” according to the organization. “For the art students, we want this to be an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”
The Memory Project is an initiative that the teenagers will always remember. Art Honor Society faculty advisor Jane Judson believes the volume of portraits completed this year is the most the organization has ever created in a single year for the project.
“Many of the children have lost parents, have no homes and have witnessed terrible things,” Ms. Judson said. The Memory Project organization provided the Huntington Art Honor Society with color prints and digital copies of photos of children and teens from the Syrian refugee camp. Portraits were then created by the Huntington teenagers.
Participating Art Honor Society members include Bianca Lella, Natalie Furman, Kelly Alfaro-Alvarez, Angelina Larkin, Nicholas Rowley, Christina Varady, Thomas Edgar-McNerney, Brooke Biernacki, Lauren LoScalzo, Francesca Greco, Aniyah Toro, Jeraine Nieves-Morales, Emely Lopez and Josie Fasolino.
The Memory Project filmed a video of the Syrian refugees being presented with their portraits and sent it to Huntington High School. It packed an emotional wallop.
“I absolutely loved participating in this project and I will continue to participate for the coming years,” Ms. Greco said. “The one single reason is the smiles on the children’s' faces. To know that my art can make these children smile shows me just how important it is to them.”
The Huntington teenagers learned firsthand how powerful art can be. “I really enjoyed making the portrait and felt a connection to the girl in Syria,” Ms. Alfaro-Alvarez said.
The Art Honor Society members derived immense value through their participation in the project. “It made me realize how good my friends and I have it,” Ms. Lella said. “Doing this project made me grateful for my home and my life. I now always keep these children in my mind.”
No one involved in the recent initiative will ever forget it. “I think that the Memory Project is a great way to reach out to others and let them know that there are people in the world who really care,” Mr. Edgar-McNerney said. “I’m so glad that I have been able to make a difference in those children’s lives.”
The artwork created by the Huntington teenagers is nothing short of spectacular. “I really enjoyed seeing the reactions of the kids as they received their portraits,” Ms. Larkin said. “It was so heartwarming and made me emotional.”
The Art Honor Society took their time and carefully created something very special for their counterparts on the other side of the world. “We worked hard on these projects and to see their reactions was so amazing,” Ms. Nieves-Morales said.
Watching the video of the Syrian children receiving their portraits really put the entire project into perspective for the Huntington students. “It was a beautiful and motivational experience to be able to put my artistic skills into an artwork and really impact someone’s life,” Ms. Furman said. “It’s truly remarkable!”
Over the past 14 years, the Memory Project organization has created over 100,000 portraits for children in 43 countries.
“It was amazing to see the impact we had on these kids, with just a picture of them,” Ms. Lopez said. “I didn’t know the amount of joy we would bring to them. It was incredible. I am so glad we were able to make them happy and give them hope!”
Huntington’s Art Honor Society is led by President Quinn Blackburn, Vice President Katie Giambrone, Secretary Christina Varady and Treasurer Thomas Edgar-McNerney. The group is proud of what it accomplished with this year’s Memory Project.
“This was such a moving project and a way to connect children from different parts of the world,” Ms. Judson said. “It really was such a pleasure to be a part of it.”