Portland School Notebook: Sept. 28

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PHS alum paints the ties that bind the present with the past

Artist Kathy Truong graduated from Portland High School in June, but it didn’t stop her from continuing to work on a school art project that she began as a sophomore.

In 2014, Truong started doing a series of portraits of alumni of PHS, which is the second- oldest operating public high school in the country. She also painted some PHS staff. Troung returned to the school this month to present her latest mixed media portrait, which is of new PHS Principal Sheila Jepson, and see it installed in the school’s main hallway beside her other portraits.

“I was truly amazed, awed and touched with the portrait,” Jepson said. “Wow, she is an amazing artist – so skilled, so very in tune with what she is doing. I am so impressed with her skill … And yes, very honored.”

Truong said she first started creating the portraits as a way of celebrating the long history of PHS, which was founded in 1821. “In the (PHS) library,” she said, “there’s a room where all the yearbooks are archived, dating back to 1921. I pulled a couple yearbooks from every decade and took photos of notable alumni who struck a presence within me; they weren’t necessarily the class president or nominated for a superlative but they stood out and remain nameless. I wanted to create an incoherent timeless time line of these faces to commemorate how far this school has come, has gone back in history, that these people were once here and a piece of them will stay here for the present to remember.”

Barbara Loring, Truong’s art teacher at PHS, called Truong, “one of the most invested, dedicated and advanced young artists and individuals I have had the pleasure to know in my 34 years of teaching art.”

She said while at PHS, Truong led the Art Club and became one of the key artists and organizers in the school’s Marine Mammal Awareness First Friday Art Walk 2014, for which she made massive, handprinted descriptive posters. Truong also was a leader in Portland High Chapter of the Seeds of Peace Youth Organization, and created a portrait of Seeds of Peace founder Tim Wilson.

Loring said that Truong’s more than 20 portraits of PHS alumni and staff also are a legacy for the school.

Loring said Truong portrayed each of her subjects – who also include PHS Assistant Principal Kathleen Marquis-Gerard – “in large format, combining her formidable and articulate monochromatic realism against dynamically gessoed backgrounds. This extensive series … is installed on an elevated gallery expanse in our first-floor wing. It is a remarkable tribute to individuality and diversity at Portland High School through many eras, seen through a modern lens.”

Learning Works director named Afterschool Ambassador

The Afterschool Alliance announced that Amy Pichette, director of afterschool programming at LearningWorks, has been selected to serve as a 2016-17 Afterschool Ambassador. She is one of just 15 leaders from across the nation chosen for the honor this year. Each Afterschool Ambassador will continue their work at a local after school program while also serving a one-year Afterschool Ambassador term, organizing public events, communicating with elected officials and policy makers, and growing support f in other ways for after school programs.

Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant called Pichette “a dedicated champion for quality after school and summer learning programs. I know she will mobilize business, community and faith leaders, lawmakers, educators, parents and others to increase resources for after school programs, which keep students safe, inspire them to learn and help working families.” According to Grant, after school programs offer homework help, mentors, science and technology, access to healthy food, fitness and the arts.

LearningWorks Afterschool serves 800 second- to fifth-grade students each year in 11 schools in Southern Maine, including six in Portland and two in South Portland.

Works by Deering students featured in PPL Teen Library exhibit

Portland Public Library’s Teen Library at Monument Square is home to a new exhibit featuring stories written by 12 Deering High School students from Iraq, Angola, Vietnam, Somalia, Albania, Afghanistan, Burundi, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I’m Capable of Anything” explores the complex emotions that arise when faced with a new situation. This collection of stories is made possible by DHS teacher Wendy Toole and teaching artists from The Telling Room; they are accompanied by student portraits captured by Molly Haley.  The exhibit will be on display through December.

Portland students named National Merit semifinalists

More than a half dozen high school seniors have been named semifinalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program: Rose Griffin, who attends Portland High School; Alex Smith, a student at Deering High School; Jasper Sommer and Nathaniel Youngren, who attend Casco Bay High School; Schuyler W. Black and Steven H. Larkin of Cheverus High School; Sebastian Lindner-Liaw and Athea Sellers of Waynflete.

The students will have an opportunity to compete for about 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million that will be offered next spring.

The four are among about 16,000 semifinalists nationwide that were selected from a pool of about 1.6 million high school juniors who entered the 2017 scholarship program.

Recent Portland High School graduate Kathy Truong and PHS Principal Sheila Jepson with the portrait Truong painted of the administrator. The former student has painted about 20 alumni and staff members in all.