Volunteer Muralist Inspires Kindness

Erika Riedel, Business Editor

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Senior Natalie Schlesinger organizes charity events, including a gift exchange in Sonoma County and meal preparations for soup kitchens and farmers’ markets through her work with HandsOn Bay Area (HOBA), the East Bay’s 1st youth council.

Schlesinger began her participation with HandsOn Bay Area at the HandsOn Tomorrow summer program in 2017. The summer program was the “best experience of my life,” said Schlesinger.

In addition to collaborating with other members of the youth council on various projects, Schlesinger is expected to organize 1-2 projects independently each year. This year, she is planning to paint murals at a soup kitchen in Oakland.

Elena Noyes, Community Relations Manager and Volunteer Services Manager for HOBA, said, “Natalie is one of the most passionate and hard-working high schoolers I’ve ever met. She immediately stood out for her willingness to take initiative during our volunteering work and her commitment to learning about and understanding the different issue areas that we focus on during the two week program.”

Organizing a mural painting event at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Oakland remains one of Schlesinger’s favorite experiences. “It was so rewarding to help lead and to see my art come to life, and I loved working with the administration at MLK. They were so kind,” said Schlesinger.

Noyes said, “The school was absolutely thrilled with the work and started focusing their curriculum on how students can be kinder to each other and using the murals as teaching tools. There’s been multiple times that I’ve seen students and teachers pointing at the Kindness Sunflowers and interacting with the murals. It’s great to see a project that has such a lasting, important impact.”

Junior Justin Xiao, who worked alongside Schlesinger and Noyes on the murals, said, “I think everyone should be able to expose themselves to art and have a beautiful school environment. [Schlesinger] is very passionate at what she does and she is very good at what she does.”

Although this is her last year on the council, Schlesinger plans to continue working with HOBA as a summer intern. “I’m excited to help train new members to take over when I leave, as well as finish the Earth Day project I’ve been wanting to do since my 1st year. My career with the organization is certainly not close to being over,” she said.

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