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Peace Signs Art & Theatre Come Together to Transform a School

Sequoia janitor Seng Kim devoting his breaks and after-school time to paint Peace Signs murals.
Sequoia janitor Seng Kim devoting his breaks and after-school time to paint Peace Signs murals.

Art always has a powerful way of stimulating minds and to getting people to think deeply. Sequoia Elementary School understands this well. They’re using art to send a message to the school community about positive behavior.

The school is in the process of painting two murals on their campus in Manteca, Calif. When they’re finished each will don the Peace Signs iconic stoplight with its “Stop, think, act — make a positive impact” slogan.

The idea for the murals came to Vice Principal Ann Jayne earlier this year, after she saw Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre (KPET) for the very first time. She was impressed with the program’s approach to conveying powerful nonviolence messages using comedy, drama, music and dance.

She was also amazed at the shared reaction of the school’s 750 students and staff members who saw a theatre presentation of Peace Signs in March, saying that she heard people singing songs from the performance weeks after the event.

Jayne attributes the performance’s staying power to its professionally-trained actors, timeless lessons and inclusive nature.

“Music is ageless, and it’s universal,” said Jayne. “It was great to see the kids so excited. They were completely awestruck with the actors and the chance to talk with them after the performance.”

Despite budget cuts and diminishing resources, Jayne said an added value of KPET is that it provides exposure to the arts for a population that may not otherwise get a chance to see live theatre.

“About half of our population is low-income and highly transient. This puts them at a tremendous social disadvantage,” she said.

Impressed and inspired, Jayne was determined to keep the Peace Signs experience alive. She approached KPET about using the program’s logo, and talked to the school principal. Together, they secured a thumb’s up from the Manteca Unified School District to give the Peace Signs artwork a prominent presence on their campus. Soon after, Jayne enlisted the help of former painter and school janitor Seng Kim to bring her idea to fruition.

Kim—who’s known around campus for being meticulous about his work—gladly accepted. He takes pride in contributing to the school, saying “it’s like my second home.” For the last several weeks, he’s been working during breaks and after school to paint the two murals: one facing the school’s multipurpose room play area, a primary thoroughfare for 5th through 8th grade students, the other facing the primary playground for K through 6th graders. The school is also posting the artwork in classrooms and interior hallways.

Jayne said KPET has played a role in transforming the environment on the Sequoia campus, and she’s pleased to have the Peace Signs message there to inspire future generations of students and staff alike.

“The whole experience gives our staff a renewed sense of hope, with an effective means for teaching positive behavior. As an educator, you never stop being hopeful that kids will continue to enjoy learning.”

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program.

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