Students at Rollingwood Elementary in San Bruno, Calif., spent the 2020-2021 school year learning about social justice and the important historical contributions of diverse communities.
Each classroom studied heroes of the Latinx, Indigenous American, Black, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern/North African communities.
After studying the lives of these heroes, students were tasked with creating presentations sharing what they learned. According to Colleen Hennessy, Rollingwood principal, the most exciting part came next. Students voted on the heroes they believed should be immortalized on four murals at the school affectionately named “Mount Rollingwood.” Hennessy said the individuals the students voted on to feature on the murals would be known as the “founding fathers and mothers of a fairer America.”
With funding from Dragonfly Community Arts, and in partnership with artist Safi “ChaChaa” Kolozsvari, arts commissioner Stephen Seymour and the San Bruno Lions Club, Mount Rollingwood became a reality. Kolozsvari worked with the students at Rollingwood, teaching them about mural painting, art terminology, and fundamental art techniques.
Next came the installation of the four 14-foot x 70-foot panels in the courtyard at Rollingwood Elementary. Each mural would highlight the cultural heroes chosen by the students to represent the communities they decided to showcase on the Mount Rollingwood murals.
During Spring semester Kolozsvari sketched the designs and worked with the students to paint the murals and bring their heroes to life. By the end of the semester, the students were able to finish the first two murals. Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, and Vice President Kamala Harris were the heroes the students chose to represent the Black community. Cesar Chavez, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and NASA astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa were the heroes chosen to represent the Latinx community.
When students returned to school in the Fall, they started painting the heroes representing the Indigenous and Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The Indigenous mural included John Herrington, Sacagawea, and Buffy Sainte Marie. For the Asian and Pacific Islander mural, students honored Larry Itliong, Malala Yousafzai, and Tyrus Wong.