Catholic Girls HS Students Craft Murals, Paintings to Revitalize Younger Generation’s Academy

From left to right: Ashley Johnson, Christine Castro, Rocío Lijó, Carina Filardo, Alexandra Dimitrovici. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

CYPRESS HILLS — Alexandra Dimitrovici is not an artsy person. But since she started her sophomore year at The Mary Louis Academy, she has spent dozens of hours filling the halls of nearby Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy with murals and paintings along with her friends.

It started as a way to meet her service hours requirement at school. By the second time she went, it had transformed into an opportunity to build long-lasting friendships with her classmates and help support the younger generation of Catholic school students. 

“When you came here, you kind of felt like family. It wasn’t like it was forced, or like you were rushed to come, and you wanted to volunteer,” Alexandra, 15, said. 

She and her classmates learned about the opportunity to participate in this service-learning opportunity through their religion course. The assistant principal of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy, Rocío Lijó, reached out to the school because she wanted to revitalize her school’s halls. 

The Mary Louis Academy has a required number of hours that students must volunteer, and since Lijó’s daughter attended there, she knew there would be students looking for service learning opportunities. 

“They are so nice, so sweet. They are wonderful girls. At the beginning, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe they will come for a week or two.’ … But no, they have been here from like October last year, and they kept coming,” she said.

The handful of students who came to help Lijó, she says, are “her girls,” seeing them as if they are children of her own. Their devotion to helping the school is prevalent in their behavior and positivity and reflects the values that Catholic school education instills in their students.

“Catholic schools, we try to help each other,” she said.

Since they started, the girls have painted the school’s stairwells, a project that took seven hours, and a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the wall. An image of Jesus is nearly complete, coating the wall adjacent to the Virgin Mother.

“We try to make it religious, but we also try to find the meaning behind them. For instance, Our Lady of Guadalupe means health, hope, and life. So with that, we want to send a message to the children here that we want to spread kindness and positivity,” said Christine Castro, 16, one of the volunteers.

Christine has earned 26 volunteer hours overall through painting at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy. As a sophomore, she is required to have 15 hours by the end of the year. Next year, she will need to have 50, as The Mary Louis Academy has a requirement called the “Junior Project.” Part of that project entails volunteering at three different places. 

When Mary Louis Academy sophomore Ashley Johnson saw Alexandra’s painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she was excited to join her best friend by volunteering. Ashley has been a painter for some time, finding the whole process therapeutic, and enjoys spending hours painting on the walls and getting close to her friends, old and new alike.

“We can chat about random things in life, and we can just zone out and let our bodies do the work,” Ashley, 15, said. “It is calming for us. It’s a great bonding experience because we were never this close beforehand.”

The students have already asked if they can come back next year to help out at Blessed Sacrament, or if there are opportunities to help at other schools. 

Lijó, of course, said yes.

“It’s not like I was forced to do anything. When you get recognition, and when you get people saying you did a good job,” Alexandra said. “It makes you realize that you can actually make a difference.”