Fashion marketing students at a public high school in Portland used an iconic World War II recruiting image as inspiration for a T-shirt they designed featuring a modern-day woman wearing a hijab instead of a bandanna.

Rosie the Riveter appeared on a poster during the war sporting a red bandanna, her sleeves rolled up and biceps flexed, with the caption “We Can Do It.” The poster represented the American women who volunteered to work in factories and shipyards during the war.

Jane Krasnow’s students at Portland Arts & Technology High School transformed that image of Rosie into a new version in their effort to make immigrant students and others feel welcome in Portland schools. They designed a T-shirt that has Rosie in a hijab with the caption “We Belong Here.”

“After the election and then the travel ban, our class noticed that students were feeling fear and were nervous to even go to school,” Krasnow said in a statement issued Monday by Portland Public Schools. “Seeing this, we decided to do something rather than stay stuck in feeling afraid and insecure.”

In late January, Superintendent Xavier Botana responded to an alleged hate crime against four black Casco Bay High School students by writing an open letter to the community denouncing the suspected perpetrator’s actions. Botana also tried to promote an environment of inclusion and openness, supporting after-class unity rallies held at the city’s three high schools. The Maine Republican Party later accused him of trying to politicize the incident.

Students talked about the hate crime and its implications, but that was not the reason behind the T-shirts, Krasnow said in an email.

“They were responding to President Trump’s travel ban and students’ reaction to that,” Krasnow wrote. “Students were feeling uneasy and nervous and even afraid to go to school. We discussed how President Obama said not to sit and be upset, but to get out and do something. That is when we came up with the idea to recreate this image.”

This month, the Portland Board of Education unanimously backed three resolutions committing the school district to being a safe haven for all students and families, condemning hate speech and supporting employees’ right to speak out on political issues.

Krasnow said that her class decided to apply for a grant that would help pay for putting the Rosie image on T-shirts. Led by Portland High School senior Zahra Abukar and Windham High School senior Taylor Rickett, the class received a $490 grant through Painting for a Purpose, a Portland nonprofit organization that brings artists, parents, students and teachers together for the purpose of creating and selling art.

Krasnow said the T-shirts are available in long and short sleeves and cost $20 and $15, respectively. They come in white and light gray.

“This was a great project and I am so proud of my students for spearheading this effort to raise money for the Make It Happen program,” Krasnow said.

All proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts benefit the Make It Happen! program operated by the Portland Public Schools Multilingual & Multicultural Center. The program is a college readiness and academic success program for language minority students in grades 8 through 12.

Krasnow said Abukar and Rickett entered their T-shirt project in the Maine State DECA conference, held in early March, and won first place. A total of six students from PATHS qualified for the nationals in Anaheim, California, on April 25-30. Three students are now trying to raise enough money on GoFundMe.com to attend the nationals.

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Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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