Maine East Students Unveil "Welcome" Mural in 16 Languages
Coordinator had headaches trying to get the words translated correctly; some students painted the word in their own languages.
Sharon Koshy wants to say "welcome" to other students arriving at Maine East High School.
She especially wants to say it in Malayalam, her native language, to welcome other students, like herself, from southern India.
That's why she, her sister Shaba and Anilet Thomas, who all arrived at the school a year ago from India, spent part of the summer painting the Park Ridge School's mural, which features the word "Welcome" in 16 of the school's most widely-spoken languages.
Earlier: Students paint "welcome" mural
The three girls were among about a dozen student painters who showed up at the mural's unveiling Wednesday.
Principal Mike Pressler credited Kathy Malyszko, a social worker at District 207's school-based health clinic, for coordinating the project, and acknowledged her for resolving the challenges in using proper translations of the word "Welcome."
"Even though we speak more than 50 languages here ... we had to be careful in terms of tense and whether we chose a formal or informal way of phrasing," he said.
Malyszko recalled that one day she was practically in tears because there are so many ways to say "welcome" in Gujarati.
She chose Chicago artist Gino Savarino to design the mural, which is in a rotunda staircase near the main entrance. That worried Pressler, she said, because Savarino works in a contemporary style while Maine East's architecture is traditional.
Pressler said he was extremely pleased with the finished artwork. He also liked the artist's practical solution for mounting it on the wall.
"Gino suggested we paint the mural on panels and do it in five different sections," Pressler explained.
Logistically, that worked out better than having to position student painters on tall ladders on a narrow staircase landing in order to paint directly on the wall.
Malyszko asked the students present to say "welcome" in their languages for the audience.
Later, Pat Ahern, president of the Park Ridge Rotary, which provided a grant to fund the project, said, "To be able to partner with a school that includes all kinds of people in studying and learning makes us very proud."
Chamiram Odicho, a junior who arrived at Maine East a year ago from Syria and helped paint "welcome" in Assyrian, was standing next to Fabiana Nafea, a sophomore who came a year ago from Syria and helped paint the word in Arabic.
Odicho praised the way teachers at the school had welcomed her.
"Teachers talk with you and if you don't understand, they work with you," she said. "It's a good school, the best in Chicago."
The mural includes the following languages: