ST. ALBANS CITY — The entrance to the Academy of Learning (AOL), an adult special education center operated by Northwestern Counseling & Support Services, is a whole lot more inviting thanks to a mural painted by a Bellows Free Academy (BFA) sophomore.

Jennifer Lavallee, of St. Albans, spent 30 hours of her summer vacation designing and painting the new mural unveiled during a presentation last Thursday.  The piece of art, titled “Celebrate Our Differences,” features four hands, all of different races, forming a circle around the Earth, painted in the shape of a heart. Each arm represents a different word of unity: understanding, acceptance, respect and tolerance.

The AOL, which is a part of NCSS’s Pathways Program, aims to give adult students the confidence and skills needed to succeed as independently as possible in life. Claire Thompson, team leader of the Pathways program, had this goal in mind when she came up with  the idea of a mural in the entryway of the AOL, to help inspire students in their everyday activities. Thompson then approached Kasia Bilodeau, a special education teacher at BFA, who also runs the Community Integration program at the school.

“A light bulb went off, and I thought immediately of Jennifer who has this amazing talent,” Bilodeau said.

Jennifer, though hasn’t taken an official art class at BFA, was accepted into the Northwest Technical Center for her digital design skills.

When approached with the idea, it took her just one day to sketch the design. She then translated the image on her iPad, before using a projector to create the piece of art now on the wall.

“I was just told where to go and what to do,” Bilodeau said, adding that Jennifer was the mastermind behind the project.

Jennifer’s work was honored by the Executive Director of NCSS, Todd Bauman. During the unveiling he thanked her for her hard work, and her willingness to give back.

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