Equipped with a passion for art, Memorial Junior High School 8th grader AJ Castillo wanted to make his mark on the neighborhood and show some school spirit. Early this summer, AJ teamed up with the Valley Stream Beautification Committee to paint the Memorial eagle mascot on a village manhole cover outside the school.
“The purpose of the project is to paint something themed for Valley Stream. I thought that because I grew up in the area and go to Memorial, I’d do something related,” AJ said. “I think it’s really nice because even after I leave the school, people walking back and forth to classes will see the manhole. It’s part of the school now.”
For its manhole cover project, the Valley Stream Beautification Committee teams up with local artists to decorate manhole covers throughout the neighborhood. AJ’s father, Alfonso, said he is always looking for ways for AJ to showcase his art. They decided to apply and pitch the idea to the committee.
AJ has long held a passion for art, first inspired by his father, who himself is an avid artist. AJ’s medium of choice is alcohol markers on paper, and he has also drawn some of the comics in the school newspaper.
With the manhole cover, AJ wanted to take on the challenge of using a different medium, paint, on the unique metal surface. He discussed various ideas with his art teacher, Darla Collins, and AJ decided on something school related. With the difficulties posed by the manhole cover texture, AJ knew that a simpler design would present better, so he painted his own take on the Memorial eagle, adorned with the Memorial “M” on its chest.
“AJ is a creative and kind young man, and has been an inspiration to his Memorial art room classmates,” Ms. Collins said. “AJ likes to challenge himself, and while working with him on suggestions for the Manhole Beautification project he chose our Memorial-Central community eagle, Fletcher. I look forward to AJ exploring the Arts and sharing them with the Valley Stream school and community.”
Once approved by the Beautification Committee, AJ got to work early this July, and spent the better part of a day—through heat and rain—bringing his idea to life. The manhole cover is located on Hendrickson Avenue, near the school football field, and now Memorial and Central students will be able to see AJ’s work for generations to come.
For more information about the Valley Stream Central High School District, please visit the District’s website at https://www.vschsd.org/, and like its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ValleyStreamCentralHighSchoolDistrict