Special Awards for Special Volunteers at Profiling Excellence Ceremony
May 28, 2010


A team of creative students at Sir John A. Macdonald secondary received their first art commission this spring – an assignment that helped celebrate the 2010 Profiling Excellence volunteers.

Most of the students, in grades 9 to 12, had worked with clay before. But this was a new task: create a one-of-a-kind trophy to capture the essence of one award-winning volunteer. They also presented it to their recipient May 11 at the annual gala organized by the Parental Involvement Committee (PIC).

“I had Sandra Binns and one thing that stood out is that she liked to bake,” Grade 11 student Rose Hoang said of the volunteer who links Adelaide Hoodless elementary with Home and School, PIC and the wider community. “So I tried to include organic things like cooking and baked goods.”

Binns loved it. “Baking is something that I like to do for me, because I find it relaxing. I do so many things that it’s interesting that she chose that element to focus on, it’s very personal,” said Binns, a gracious award winner who is a member of PIC and current president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Council of Home and School Associations. “Having a budding artist create something for me that I can show my family is really special.”

Jeff Reynolds, chair of HWDSB’s PIC which through a subcommittee has organized and run the Board-supported event for four years, said the unique SJAM artwork added a nice twist to the event this year.

“This is about giving parents who volunteer some recognition beyond the school level, where there may already have an appreciation day or pizza party,” said Reynolds, noting that 400 volunteer names were submitted.

In one case, Grade 12 SJAM student Linh Hoang sculpted two collaborating forms to represent the extra classroom assistance students receive from Roberta Crowthers at Queen’s Rangers School.

Josh Wald’s sculpture evoked the love of chess held dear by Allan Parker, a 13-year volunteer at Mary Hopkins who leads a fitness program, challenges students’ numeracy and literacy and mentors the school’s chess club.

“He was involved in everything so I had two shapes going different directions because he was so well-rounded,” the Grade 11 student says. “But then (SJAM art teacher Richard) Kowalchuk said it looked like a chess piece. I said, ‘Yeah it does’ and decided to cut the top off of it so it looks like a rook piece.”

To capture Vicky Wylson-Sher, a strong advocate for improving education through HWDSB’s Special Education Advisory Committee, Grade 9 student Mary Deason built barriers into her sculpture “because people have obstacles to get through but still get through them.”

The students, taking a break around a table in one of the studio classrooms at Sir John A. Macdonald, enjoyed the process. “It was neat and a bit hard, because we only got a certain amount of time to do it, so we had to think fast,” Linh Hoang said.

SJAM art department head Richard Kowalchuk noted that the gold-painted clay sculptures on wooden bases also showed the students what it means to be a commissioned to create art. For some, giving away their sculpture was like giving away a first-born child.

“Especially for senior students, who are building their portfolio, it was a learning experience,” Kowalchuk says. “In the art world, if you are commissioned to do something, it is gone before you start. That is part of art.”