WCHS Students Excel in KYLA Project

From Left - Brittany Duncan, Madeline Bowell, and Emma Marsh, Class of 2021 KYLA Project. (Photo Provided: Warsaw Community Schools)

Madeline Bowell, Emma Marsh, and Brittany Duncan are in the Class of 2021 at Warsaw Community High School. Nominated and selected to participate in the Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy (KYLA), these three young ladies have learned about leadership and community service through classroom and hands-on training. Their chosen project was to design, create, and donate a customized piece of art to each of the Warsaw Community Schools elementary buildings.

Working on the project since December 2019, Madeline, Emma, and Brittany have spent over 70 hours crafting, collaborating, and creating hand-painted unique stools. Brittany explained, “We decided to make this our project because we wanted to give back to the foundation of our education. We thought elementary schools are an essential part of schooling and we wanted to show the staff how much they are appreciated.” Madeline attended Jefferson Elementary.  Brittany attended Washington and Claypool. Emma attended Harrison, Madison, and Eisenhower. While none attended Leesburg or Lincoln, these schools were not left off the gift list; all eight schools will receive their unique school logo stool over the next few weeks.

This story began a few years ago in Mrs. Kallie Kirkendall’s Advanced Art Class. Madeline, along with friends Elizabeth Stone and Lily Boston, made a lasting impression at Lakeview Middle School when they gave a customized stool decoupaged with old maps from the French Revolution to Mrs. Betsey Vastbinder, Social Studies teacher. Mrs. Vastbinder has since moved classrooms, but that piece of furniture traveled with her. She noted, “My drab stool with scratches and scuffs was transformed from an eyesore to a conversation piece! It was such a gift to me to have a part of my classroom brightened up by someone with better skills at art and decorating than what I have!”

The project was such a hit that teachers began to request their own. During the month of May 2017, the trio customized 15 stools, transformed a coffee table into a piano for retiring choir teacher Mrs. Judy Becker, and renovated a podium for Mrs. April Boggs. Hearing about this KYLA Project, Mrs. Kallie Kirkendall added, “I couldn’t be more proud of my Advanced Art students who started this project in 8th grade. If they only knew how much they inspired me to be a better teacher! This class meant the world to me, my students meant the world to me, and I’m so thankful for each and every one of these incredible artists!”

More than just the artistry, these young ladies learned many other life skills. Madeline described the process, “We thought it would be a quick and easy project. We soon realized it was going to take a lot of time, effort, communication, and planning to execute a project on this scale for all eight schools.” Brittany agreed, “It was a lesson in time management and communication. We learned so much about how to ask for help. It took multiple trips to Lowes, but we are so grateful for their donation of paint, brushes, and sealant. We also relied on the generosity of friends and family who donated stools or cash.”

Emma added, “The project might look simple, but we challenged ourselves to plan, design, and deliver something that is one-of-a-kind to each school. Just as each school is unique with its specific school colors and logo, so are these stools.” Madeline, Brittany, and Emma expressed their gratitude to their parents for all their support and to Mr. Akers for helping to make contact with the elementary principals. Madeline, Brittany, and Emma have already hand-delivered the stools to Leesburg, Eisenhower, and Jefferson. They hope that this simple act of community service will inspire others to show their appreciation, to use their time and talents, and to learn by doing for others. As they look to the future, Madeline plans to pursue business and accounting, Brittany is interested in biology and zoology, and Emma is leaning toward business management. Whatever path they take, they have made their mark and left a legacy of appreciation across the WCS district.

Warsaw Community Schools thanks Madeline Bowell, Brittany Duncan, and Emma Marsh for their donation to the eight elementary schools. Congratulations on an outstanding KYLA project and best wishes as you close out your junior year at WCHS.