Roosevelt Students Provide Diversity Face Lift at Justice Center

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Teenagers are typically not thrilled to spend time at the Polk County Juvenile Court offices in Des Moines.

But for the last three weeks, over two dozen Roosevelt High School art students have made the second floor of the justice center their canvas, all thanks to a grant contest from the Polk County Board of Supervisors.  "Just for entering, the school gets $1,000," said Nicole James who teaches art at Roosevelt.

"First of all, I thought it was going to be fun to get to come do something outside of class and something more people are going to see," said Nora Sweeney, a sophomore at Roosevelt High School.

Roosevelt was chosen from a group of other Polk County schools. The county let students like Nora and fellow sophomore Kate Schettler get to work with one request to put Polk County’s diversity on full display.  Schettler said, "It’s important to have diversity because it’s like who we are.  Roosevelt is very diverse and it’s important to show it is our people."

The colorful mural is an attention grabber.  "I really love when people come around the corner up the stairs and their like, 'Oh wow,' because it hits you when you turn that corner," said James.  Iconic landmarks that make Polk County unique are also sprinkled in.  Sweeney said, "It kind of shows all of Polk County. There are a lot of different sites like the Capitol, Adventureland and schools."

While visually pleasing, it also serves another purpose, a calming effect.  "This area is meant for siblings of people that are here, so they might be more scared than the people actually going into the court system," James said.

Recent budget cuts to schools across Iowa have hampered Roosevelt's art department.  Not only does the mural create the fact that art can be powerful, it also guaranteed the Roosevelt art department an extra $5,000 from the Polk County Board of Supervisors.  "I think it’s really great because we need to have art programs to teach young students to be creative," said Schettler.

It is creativity that these students hope can make others proud to call Polk County home.  "I hope they feel that same excitement that Polk County is able to come together," said Sweeney.  Schettler added, "It’s been rewarding to see how it turned out.  Look at it now and it’s like wow we did that."

Roosevelt art teachers also assisted with the mural.  Many of the portraits in the mural are of current Roosevelt High School students.

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