Murals for a cause allow students to gain leadership skills

Marielle Alindogan, A&E Assistant

M:POWR stands for Mountain Shadows: Painting Our World Radiantly, an event that takes place every Tuesday until Nov. 20.


A mural project was created for students to work together with residents, who they call “clients” from the Mountain Shadows Residential Community, a non-profit organization that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities.


The history of the M:POWR mural project started when the Mountain Shadows director reached out to Shannon Nolan-Arañez, coordinator of Student Involvement & Tukwut Leadership Circle. To see if she knew artists or students interested in painting the very “stark” and “all white walls.”


Arañez came across Marilyn Huertas who knew muralist, Joanne Twafilis.


“[Twafilis] agreed to come every week for free to coach students to work with clients to paint,” said Arañez.


Since they started, the program created several murals; sending them to different schools where shootings and natural disasters have occurred.


The art on the murals is sketched by Twafilis while the rest of the art is up to the students and the clients to create together. Students and clients are able to paint, splatter or color in the sketches that Twafilis created.


The theme of the designs are based on natural disasters or “whatever we are sending our love to,” Arañez said, “it is really freehand and what’s on people’s hearts.”


United Nations Education Science & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Tukwut Leadership Circle linked together in order to provide the opportunity for students to engage in.


Students who are part of the Tukwut Leadership Circle (TLC) are required to complete seven hours of civic engagement.


CSUSM student, Vanessa Ludi, said when she started the project, she wasn’t really interested at first, but when she had a chance to interact with clients, she said she likes helping and being attentive to them.


At the end of every painting session, each student is handed a bright neon slip, asking them a question about the impact of the project.


Students were asked the following questions, “What did this project teach you about leadership?” and “What did you feel before walking into this project versus how you feel now after participating with clients in this project?”


Arañez said she writes stories about the these statements to try and fund for the program since people want to know about the impact.


Mekala Lehmunn, the student specialist, said that “it is important to teach people about leadership, it dispels stereotypes about leaders, such as they’re bossy or just tell people what to do… it’s a learning experience.”


For more information about the UNESCO Mural Project, and would like to participate, visit