MOUNT VERNON — For many, the past 18 months have been difficult.

A mural being painted at Mount Vernon High School details some of the feelings that students have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including anxiety, fear and stress.

“This was a way for us to commemorate what happened in the past,” said art teacher Helene Zawila. “And heal from it.”

During the past school year, Zawila had her students draw images that delved into how they felt during the pandemic.

Those images, which include tombstones, masked faces and images of protests, were then put into one image, which Zawila called a “response image.”

“They have to search inside of themselves,” she said.

The project started as a way for Zawila, a relatively new teacher at the school, to connect with her students during remote learning, she said. It became a joint venture to bring them all together.

“I felt it was very important,” she said. “Art can be so many things.”

One of those things, she said, was therapeutic.

In partnership with local nonprofit Voices of the Children, local artist Dutch Bihary spray-painted the black and white image on a section of wall in the school cafeteria. Students and staff have been filling it in with color.

“I want this to be a collective experience,” Zawila said. “Because we are in this together.”

With a new group of students coming in, Zawila said she hopes to do similar murals in the future.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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