Tonawanda News

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January 24, 2013

Kenmore East students complete portrait of Pakistani teen shot by Taliban

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Art students at Kenmore East High School completed a professional-looking portrait this month, and while doing so, got a current events lesson, too.

Every January, Matt SaGurney’s classes completes a painting of a famous, inspiring individual. Last year, it was Martin Luther King, the previous year, John Lennon for the 40th anniversary of his death.

“Although most of the students thought Lennon was Harry Potter,” SaGurney joked. “Since there are two people in history with those round glasses.”

This time around, SaGurney chose an inspiring teen from today’s news headlines — Malala Yousufzai, the fifteen-year-old Pakistani who was shot in the head by the Taliban for fighting for education rights for girls. 

“Once we came up with the option of her, it seemed like an obvious choice,” SaGurney said. “She is the same age as them, but they are in a completely different situation.” 

Students separated parts of the painting into grids, completing their own sections and then assembling them to create the full portrait of Malala’s face.

“We learned different brush strokes, and all these different techniques to make it look really good,” Freshman Ryan Trudell said.

In addition to the artistic skills, students learned a great deal about human rights abuses from across the world — as many of the 70 students who worked on the portrait didn’t know about Malala before the project.

Students said they realized how lucky and blessed they were just to go to school.

“She’s our age, and all she was trying to do was make it so they could go to school...and she’s been doing it since she was 10,” Emilee Johnson, one of the students who worked on the project said. “She doesn’t have the rights we do.”

The students also took the project a step further, taking it as an opportunity to educate the rest of the school on what happened to Malala.

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