At Leesville Road Middle School, a large classroom sits facing the inner courtyard within the campus. As light streams in from the large windows, a small handful of middle schoolers are hunched over their sketchbooks as they practice coloring techniques. An even smaller number of high schoolers wander around, looking over shoulders in order to impart any artistic aid if needed. This is an after-school program devoted to one-on-one collaboration with students and mentors, set on fine-tuning both basic and advanced skills.
Many high schoolers who come back took art with Mrs.Wasilewski, a passionate lady full of love for her students. She’s the driving force behind her portfolio program; something she initially started in order to help build a strong portfolio for her eighth graders going into high school. Throughout the ten years of running the program, a new batch of helpful high schoolers is a reminder of the growth that has been seen in this room.
Throughout the two hour sessions every other Wednesday, students learn techniques that range from traditional mediums like paint or colored pencils to more modern mediums like animation and digital art. The volunteer high schoolers are essential to this program — many have a specific skill-set that makes them “experts” in a certain field — for they offer not only guidance and lessons to their peers, but the experience of being in high school which will better prepare the younger students.
“In middle school, portfolio was a big community to me… [portfolio] helped me talk to people who had common interests” said Jacob Smith, a sophomore who volunteers to help at the club. For him, Mrs. Wasilewski’s program gave him the support he needed to continue to follow his passion. “The impact on the students being mentored is truly powerful… not only for the students but for the mentors as well,” said Wasilewski. For many of the students, this is an opportunity to give back to a community that offers a pause from the daily grind of high school and an opportunity to relax into their sketchbooks.
The portfolio program at Leesville Road Middle school is not only a volunteer opportunity for high school artists, but an opportunity to go back to a safe space, a place that felt like home. The love that was put into starting and continuing this club is sent back two-fold by the students that came from it; a wholesome place solely devoted to the improvement of art here at Leesville.