Summer time is always a busy time at school buildings. While students are away on break, the attention shifts to the buildings themselves as a wide range of work to improve teaching and learning spaces throughout Des Moines gets done in time for the start of a new school year. Usually the work is structural: improving classrooms, building additions, installing new systems, or upgrading public spaces.
But sometimes those improvements are aesthetic. One example is a mural project at Lincoln High School for their new Postsecondary Success Lab.
Des Moines-based artist Jacob Kuperman was putting the finishing touches on his new creation this week. You may have noticed Kuperman’s work around the city, such as on the Roosevelt Shopping Center, along the Bill Riley trail, at an ice cream shop near Drake, under an overpass south of Grand, and as part of the murals at the Lauridsen skatepark.
Mike Huguelet, the Counseling & Postsecondary Success Coordinator at DMPS, explains the need for Postsecondary Success Labs and how art ties to its purpose: “About 30% of our graduates earn a postsecondary credential within 6 years of graduating high school. That is not acceptable and can perpetuate a cycle of poverty. We are opening new Postsecondary Success Labs to provide consistent services to students across all four years. They will come to this space to do activities that advance their postsecondary research and planning. My hope is the staffing and space will show students we can aim high and they can take charge of their future. Jacob’s mural is meant to inspire students to invest in themselves and take ownership of their plans following graduation.”
The Postsecondary Success Lab and its mural is in a highly visible area at Lincoln, just off of the school’s Commons. As Kuperman was finishing up his work, he noted the mural not only reflects Lincoln’s diverse student body but also reflects bits and pieces of the diverse range of options available to students after high school, whether that’s going on to college or pursuing a skilled trade or other career opportunity that requires postsecondary training and credentials.
In April, DMPS was one of 11 Iowa school districts selected for GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready, a program to increase the number of students prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Administered by the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, the new initiative is made possible thanks to $5 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan. The funds will be used to created Postsecondary Success Labs will be located at each comprehensive high school as well as one at Central Campus to serve students from there, Central Academy, and Virtual Campus. Supports that will be provided to students include completing career assessments; researching postsecondary pathways; submitting the FAFSA application; conducting mock interviews; completing applications to vocational or technical training programs; and completing college & scholarship applications.