Rhonda Smith, a volunteer at the school, doesn’t get in trouble for painting on the walls, instead, she is praised by everyone who sees her artwork.
“Every time we walk in here, it just seems brighter,” Michelle McComas, parent coordinator, said. “Everyone is talking about Rhonda’s work.”
That work, ranging from Disney Princesses to Bambi and Spongebob has the students at Ashton excited and interested.
“The children say they are inspired by me,” Smith stated, “but they are the ones who inspire me.”
With the help of McComas and other volunteers, Smith takes a picture of a character and starts painting — no tracing — just free-hand artwork.
“Sometimes I step back and can’t believe what I have created on a wall,” Smith said. “I am only used to drawing small pictures, not wall murals.”
Smith, who is the mother of second grade student, Aaron Smith, says she was honored when school principal Alesia Green asked her to help make the school a brighter place for learning.
“The students have a hand in what I draw and what colors to use,” Smith said.
She continued to tell the story about a request from a student who had lost her dad.
“I asked her what she wanted me to paint and she said ‘Ariel,’ so that is what I painted,” Smith said. Ariel can be found in one of the girl’s restrooms along with Bugs Bunny and Dora the Explorer and her friends.
Other characters throughout the school include Sylvester, Scooby-Doo, Tinker-Bell, athletic figures and, of course, the school’s mascot, the Bulldog.
Smith, who uses her own materials and does the job out of the goodness of her heart, has painted six restrooms, the gymnasium and parts of the cafeteria.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, but I really enjoy it,” Smith said.
The students also enjoy it too. According to McComas, Smith also educates those interested during lunch and recess.
“The kids have made her cards and drawn pictures of her,” McComas said.
“One kid even gave me a penny that I carry around in my bag of stuff,” Smith said. “That’s my payment; when the children smile and tell me that they like my work.”
Smith also has been honored by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, Sec. of State Natalie Tennant, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and Sen. Jay Rockefellar with letters of appreciation for her volunteer hours spent at Ashton Elementary.
Smith hopes to be finished in June. She started on the painting project at the beginning of the school year, and volunteers on a come and go basis.
“The students are just wonderful. They don’t destroy anything here at the school and I am so glad to be able to give them something to talk about and be apart of,” Smith stated. “If the walls ever need re-painted in the future, I will be just come back and do it all over again.”