For the last few years the Yellow Medicine East Student Council has championed the motto: “We are YME,” but concomitant with that statement comes the question: What does that mean, or more precisely: just who is Yellow Medicine East?
YME Lead Special Education Teacher and Student Council Advisor, Sheila Koepke, has been working on two projects to help students answer this question in hopes that they might gain a better sense of pride in themselves, the communities where they reside and the YME community as a whole.
The two projects will soon transform the entryway of Yellow Medicine East, adorning the walls with community representative murals and filling six display cases with historical items from the six district communities of: Clarkfield, Echo, Granite Falls, Hanley Falls, Hazel Run and the Upper Sioux Community.
Koepke said that the display cases have been a project long in the works––three years and four months to be exact––but that student council has made a commitment to get the cases filled in the very near future.
“Where we’re stuck now is really needing stuff to show in the display cases,” said Koepke. “The hope was to get letter jackets, trophies, pictures, yearbooks, and that sort of thing. But we also wanted to highlight the schools in the communities; when they were built, who built them, how much they cost, how many people were in the first graduating class––and that’s been sort of difficult.”
The Clarkfield display case looks flush with items, Granite is sparsely decorated and the Echo case stands empty. The remaining cases also appear to be wanting and so Koepke is hoping that historical minded folk from each community will feel inclined to get involved.
“I visited the museum in Hanley Falls and was able to get some information on the school. We hope to paint the shelves school colors but you can’t just walk into Ladners and ask for “Cyclone Green”––so we’re hoping somebody has an old letter jacket or something.
“Bridge Builder” murals
According to Koepke the mural project was made possible by an approximately $2,000 grant that she applied for through the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council (SMAHC).
The grant enabled Koepke to bring in local artist Tamara Isfeld, who has painted murals for both Renville County West School District, where she teaches, as well as the Clarkfield Area Charter School.
Koepke said that sixth, seventh and eighth graders volunteered to be a part of the “Bridge Builders” project and subsequently worked with Isfeld to design and create the murals. She began the process with a history lesson, explaining why communities have painted murals through the centuries, from cave drawings to graffiti on trains.
Page 2 of 2 - Students were then given a week to sketch images that they identified with the community. From those sketches Isfeld laid out the design for the murals, which the students also helped paint.
There will be an open house at YME High School on Tuesday, April 30 from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., at which time the community will get a chance to see the end result as well as hear from the students on their role in the mural creating process.
Any individuals interested in aiding YME with historical items from the YME District communities for the display cases can reach Koepke through YME High School at 564-4081 or her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.