NEENAH — Students at St. Mary Catholic High School put their creativity to the test in hopes of supporting a charity of their choice. In recognition of the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, Gail Hawley and the theology department facilitated a school-wide mercy project called “Open the Doors to Mercy.”
Student mentor groups competed in a door decorating contest, which began on Jan. 27 and closed with judging on Feb. 18. Each group was given the task of designing a theme for their classroom door that reflects God’s mercy. They also researched organizations that perform works of mercy and chose one they would like to support.
Mentor groups at St. Mary Catholic are similar to homerooms at other schools. Students gather for prayer on Wednesday mornings before breaking into their groups for mentor time. Jacob Schultz said that his freshmen mentor group did an online search for charitable organizations. They selected Prison Fellowship.
“They help mainly kids with parents in prison,” he explained. “They give them Christmas presents, food and other things they need because they don’t have any income.”
“They also help the parents get back into society and reestablish their lives after they get out,” said classmate Addison DeShambo.
Nineteen doors in the school were decorated. Images featured in the artwork ranged from Pope Francis downhill skiing to Olaf from the movie “Frozen.” A senior group based its design on the song “Every Move I Make.”
“We had to interpret on our own, ‘what is mercy?’” said senior Lauren Unruh. “We wanted to incorporate water in our design, waves of mercy.”
“We chose Mercy Corps as our charity,” said senior Maddie Uhlenbrauck, who is also a member of art teacher Jessica Ott’s mentor group with Unruh. “They are all over the world. They go into whatever countries need help and do whatever is needed there. If they need a water source, they help them with that. If they need farming equipment or livestock, they help to provide it.”
Classmate Christina Porter said that she had never heard of Mercy Corps prior to the project. The contest provided a good learning experience.
“There are so many charities out there,” she said. “Everybody did a good job of picking a different organization.”
In addition to the art elements on the door carrying out the theme, mentor groups were instructed to display information about the select charitable organization. The winning mentor group received $500 to be donated to the charity and a pizza party. The students enjoy competing, whether it is on the school’s behavior incentive gold card system or a canned food drive.
“Everything around here is rewarded with pizza or a dress code pass,” said Unruh.
Time was the biggest challenge in decorating the doors. “We only had three half-hour periods to work on it,” said Schultz.
“We were working right up to the bell,” said Uhlenbrauck. “We had a lot of great minds coming together.”
Five members of the Spiritus team, a group of young adults based at Mount Tabor Center in Menasha, judged the doors on Feb. 18. Math teacher Marilyn Peterson’s mentor group, consisting of students from the junior class, won top door honors. The $500 prize was designated to Compassion International, an organization that assists impoverished children.