OSAA grant paves way for inspirational wall featuring 16 diverse, influential figures

BONANZA – When Thomas Henderson passes by the new 32-by-10-foot mural in his school hallway, he is inspired by the face of Temple Grandin, a scientist, author, and proponent for the humane treatment of livestock.

But that’s not why the Bonanza Junior/Senior High School student looks up to Grandin.

“She inspires me because growing up she had autism, and I have cerebral palsy,” he said. “People judged her as she was growing up and going to school and that’s how it is for me sometimes. I’ve gone through the same things. And, you know, she did things, and she became an inspiration. Hopefully one day I can do that myself.”

The colorful mural, painted by local artist Robert Terrell, features the faces of 16 influential figures and represents the culmination of a week-long “All In” series of workshops, lessons, and activities spotlighting inclusion and diversity. The project was funded through a $2,000 equity and diversity grant from the OSAA Foundation.

The main focus of the week was learning about each of the 16 people on the mural. The figures, carefully chosen by Principal Jordan Osborn and Vice Principal Sergio Cisneros, represent a wide array of ethnicities, professions, accomplishments, and backgrounds.

There is David Ho, a Taiwanese-American AIDS researcher, who was named 1996 Time Person of the Year for his contributions to the understanding and treatment of HIV infection. Nearby is Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina U.S. Supreme Court Justice; and Jim Thorpe, the first Native American athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States.

The face of Winema Riddle, a Modoc woman who served as an interpreter during the Modoc War, is just below the word “gillitkis,” a Klamath word for “courage.” Agronomist Norman Borlaug is depicted holding stalks of wheat. His work led to worldwide increases in agricultural production and earned him multiple honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Others include well-known figures such as Michael Jordan, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Wooden. Follow the link for a brief summary of Bonanza’s ‘All In’ 16 Influential Figures.

“We intentionally picked a diverse group of people to put on our mural in the hopes that students will be able to connect with someone — whether they look like them, have the same interests as them or have been through similar life struggles,” Osborn said. “We want students to be able to find strength, resilience, and inspiration to continue to be ‘all in’ in their pursuit of excellence in their own lives.”

One of the goals was to represent the school community, Cisneros said. Bonanza Junior/Senior High School has 200 students grades 7-12. Of those, about 65 percent identify as white, and 35 percent identify as multi-racial, Asian

Native American, African American or Hispanic. However, he said, representation is not just ethnic or cultural, though that is important.

“Some of our students identified with one of our figures because of their struggle,” he said.

During the week, as they watched the mural come to life under Terrell’s paintbrush, teachers and students researched each of the 16 figures, sharing their thoughts and reflections during a culminating session on Jan. 28. On that day, students could be seen taking selfies with the mural, often standing next to the figures who influence them the most.

Bonanza sophomore Yahir Raygoza Cortez is inspired by successful coach John Wooden, but not because of his winning record. Instead, Raygoza Cortez points to the coach’s philosophy on success and failure.

“To Coach Wooden, failure is something that you can learn from in order to succeed the next time,” he said. “I always try my best to succeed, and when I do fail, well it sucks, and I have a hard time getting over it. But when I learned of his philosophy, I realized I should try to do that, that I should try to learn from my failure and change for the better.”

Personal inspiration was just one take-away from the week, which emphasized how students and staff could be “all in” for themselves, for others, and for their community.

“For me, it’s a way of understanding the kind of difficulties that other people go through every day. This not only includes historical figures who we look up to, but my teachers and the people I go to class with,” said sophomore Izabella Guadarrama Dahl. “It really helps me to empathize with them and think about the kind of struggles they had to go through, how they’ve overcome them, and how I can relate to their experiences and try my best as well.”

English teacher Delana Heidrich, who helped write the grant that inspired the school’s ‘All In’ week, focused on John Wooden and Chief Joseph. Many of her students took on extra credit projects that included personally participating in Wooden’s famed “Pyramid of Success.”

“My students have really gotten into the activities,” she said. “It’s been exciting to see the students so engaged in what they’re doing.”

Bonanza secretary Rosa Kness has seen the overall impact of the project as students arrived at school during the week.

“A lot of the kids have been excited to come to school to learn, and a lot of that excitement has been coming from this mural,” she said. “It’s nice to see the kids connect to either one person or another in their own way. When I was in high school we didn’t have something like this to connect to, and so it brings out a lot of joy in me to see them excited about something and want to tell others about it too.

Math teacher Richard Otto taught lessons about Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe and mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose work was critical to the success of the U.S. space program. However, his aha moment came at the end of the week when he visited the mural with his students.

“There are people on this wall I know nothing about,” he said, “and the kids actually taught me. It’s kind of neat when you’re a teacher and a kid can teach you something. We’re all learners for life. I got a lot out of this week, and it felt like it brought the kids together.”

A panoramic photo of Bonanza Junior/Senior High School’s ‘All In’ 32-by-10 foot mural.

Bonanza students Kalvin Hayes, Izabella Guadarrama Dahl, Yahir Raygoza Cortez, and Jean Wall pose in front of the mural.

Kalvin Hayes, a Bonanza freshman, talks about who inspires him.