Mural Contest Runner-up: Putting the Pieces Back Together

drawing of a jigsaw puzzle

This winter, runaway and homeless youth programs funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau were given the chance to win the materials to paint a wall mural in their facilities. In a series of Beat posts, we recognize the runners-up and the winner.

This is a piece of art work. It is not perfect, but it is still beautiful—just like the people who come to Carolina Youth Development Center. Like me. The young people here are buds of flowers that have not bloomed yet; wings clipped but still determined to fly. We are youth. We are human. Sometimes we use that as a crutch, but at the end of the day, that is OK, because our pieces are still growing. CYDC helps us put those pieces back together.
– Amanda B., 17

This is why I do what I do. That is what I thought when Amanda handed me the sketch and essay she had prepared for this contest. Carolina Youth Development Center, a direct descendant of America's first publicly funded orphanage, is a residential care facility for youth that has been operating for the last 220 years, and Amanda is one of our residents. Our mission is to assist children in reaching their full potential as healthy and well-adjusted individuals by delivering a continuum of prevention, assessment, intervention and treatment services. I didn’t read our mission to Amanda before she started to work on this project, however. I didn’t ask her to sell you our story, and I didn’t tell her what to draw. All I said was, “Can you sketch something that shows the world what you think Carolina Youth Development Center is?  And can you write me a little bit about what you draw?”

I work in the Bakker Career Center of CYDC, offering personal development and job-skills training to the 30 to 45 young people who may call this campus home at any one time. Our programming is built on a firmament of safety, supportive relationship building, life- and job-skill development, and the realization of efficacy and mattering for our residents. Our young people come to us from trauma, either at home or in a foster care placement. We work with them in a number of ways to support their journey through their transition from trauma to triumph.

Amanda captures these elements of our work in the design she has created, and describes them in her own words above. She came to our campus through The Beacon, our runaway and homeless youth program, and has transitioned into a long term placement here. Like all of the young people in our care, she came to us from a very difficult place; when she talks about what we offer our residents, she knows firsthand.

While Amanda is the recognized artist on campus, she is certainly not the only one with creative inclinations—this sketch is a result of group brainstorming. With your support, it will next go before our Resident Advisory Board, a group of young leaders on campus that helps residents achieve group goals and facilitates two-way communication between residents and staff. The RAB will devise the plan for creating the mural, being sure to involve all of our residents in the planning and realization of this beautiful and inspirational work.

Amanda’s career goal is to become an artist, but she will not be the only one empowered by seeing her work full-sized and vibrant on our walls. Every voice that states an opinion, every hand that holds a brush, every eye that is greeted by this creation for the students and by the students will be touched. They will know that they belong here, that this is a safe space, that they too will take wing and that their pieces will fit back together.

– Merrill Wilcox, Carolina Youth Development Center, North Charleston, SC

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