CAPE ELIZABETH — Sixth grader Hope Taylor plans to encourage mental health awareness at Cape Elizabeth Middle School by painting inspirational murals on bathroom walls, thanks to a $400 grant from the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation.

Twice a year, CEEF awards a handful of grants that will impact Cape students. On May 2, CEEF Executive Director Liz McEvoy announced $25,000 to fund seven proposals.

“We think these grants this year reflect the curiosity and enthusiasm of Cape teachers, and can’t wait to see them implemented … It’s amazing when you see students be inspired and take initiative, and we certainly hope to see more in the future,” McEvoy said in an email Tuesday.

Taylor, the only student to receive a grant this spring, plans to use the fund to purchase paint, paint brushes and rollers to paint three bathrooms at CEMS with positive messages.

A team comprised of several teachers and students, including Taylor, plans to stencil the quotes this summer. “It may be rainy now, but the sun always comes out again” and “Life is tough but so are you” are two messages of many Taylor said she might include in her project.

“I hope this will help more kids speak out. My classmates don’t usually talk about mental illness, so they might start to talk about it more during this project,” Taylor, 12, said Tuesday.

The project was inspired by a series of events at CEMS that have focused on creating a dialogue about mental health throughout the school year.

In the fall, Taylor planted flowers for The Yellow Tulip Hope Project garden as part of a mental health awareness project. Earlier this year, the School Department screened a documentary on anxiety that inspired Taylor’s project.

“During the panel discussion following the documentary, Mrs. Young and other mental health experts said that they did not want a child who was experiencing anxiety to resort to a bathroom alone,” Taylor wrote in her CEEF grant proposal. “Instead, they wanted the child or teen to go to a trusted adult in the building. This made me wonder, what if kids did go to the bathrooms or needed a safe place close by to their classrooms?”

“I hope that students leave the bathrooms feeling better than when they walked in – that’s my major goal,” Taylor said.

Of the seven grants awarded this spring, five support CEMS programs, including Taylor’s murals, and two fund projects at Cape Elizabeth High School.

CEMS social worker Sarah Hanson received a grant to sponsor Maine Boys to Men workshops for seventh- and eighth- graders that tackle gender stereotypes, identity, and healthy relationships, while teacher Morgan Kerr hopes to explore aquaculture in Maine, using the grant for students to experiment with growing oysters and kelp.

CEMS teachers Steve Price and Aaon Filieo will oversee an immersive program for students to perform one-act historical biographies, and Jonathan Werner, a library and information technology specialist, received a grant to expand the CEMS MakerSpace.

“What we look for is innovation. Is it a new way of approaching a subject? Is it something that hasn’t been in the schools before? We look for grants that bring something new, a 21st-century perspective on education,” McEvoy said.

At the high school, John Holdridge received a grant to redesign Room 206C, which functions as a collaborative workspace, and Christine Marshall, the theater director,was awarded a grant to update the auditorium communication system.

CEEF has been awarding grants through fundraising and donations for 17 years. This spring all seven applicants were awarded funds, according to McEvoy.

Hope Taylor, 12, at Cape Elizabeth Middle School with tulips planted last fall as part of The Yellow Tulip Project.


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