GREENSBORO — When senior Megan McCraw pulls into parking space No. 69 at Western Guilford High School on Monday morning, she’ll see a colorful reminder of how she wants to start her year.
Instead of plain black asphalt, the space features a yellow sun — with “Joy” written above it — against a brilliant turquoise background.
She designed and painted it herself.
“I chose the word joy because it’s a constant reminder for when I get here in the mornings to be positive and joyful,” McCraw said.
This year, Western became one of the high schools in Guilford County that let seniors paint their on-campus parking spaces. Not every school does it, but some other examples include Northern, Southern, and High Point Central high schools.
“We really just wanted to build school spirit and beautify the campus,” said Stacey Papier, the president of the Parent Teacher Student Organization at Western who oversaw the process there.
Papier said about 24 Western students are painting their spaces this year. Students pay a fee to get their own parking space for the school year. Those who want to paint them pay an additional $15 that goes to the PTSO. Students must submit their design on paper for approval. Designs can’t include offensive images, flags or symbols.
“Common sense stuff,” Papier calls it.
“For the most part, everybody is just doing feel good, happy designs,” she said.
Jessica Bui’s design at space No. 84 depicts Lisa Simpson, a character from the iconic animated television show “The Simpson’s.” She said the character’s personality resonates with her.
“She’s smart and she does what she wants and she’s really cool,” Bui said.
Lisa Simpson stands against a background of yellow and reddish bands radiating from a sun.
Bui said she was inspired by the culture of the 1970s and 1980s for her design.
“I wanted to do something that reflected that, so I knew in the ’70s they used a lot of images of the sun and the rays and different colors,” she said.
Over at High Point Central, senior Jalen Martin has been working this week on painting a cow onto his parking spot, with help from his uncle.
Martin became known for having shouted “papa cow!” during a football game earlier in his high school career and for later finding a T-shirt online that included both a cartoon cow and his randomly shouted catch phrase. So his parking space will pay homage to that.
At High Point Central, painting parking spaces is a long tradition, one that Martin had heard about since middle school. Students also have to pay for a parking spot, but they can paint their space for free.
He said he was one of about 60 or so students that camped out all night recently to be first to reserve parking spaces.
Martin said he spent a lot of time thinking about what spot he wanted, to avoid getting stuck in parking lot congestion.
“I think the best spot is probably toward the middle of the parking lot, and that’s exactly what I got,” he said.
At Western, Bui finished her painting after working on it for five days.
“The hardest part is the heat,” she said. “And then it rained.”
She was helping Elizabeth Siu finish her painting at space No. 91. It featured an image, reminiscent of the works of pop artist Andy Warhol, of a red and white noodle cup against a blue background.
“I eat noodles a lot, especially when I forget to pack lunch,” Siu said.
Western senior Zoe Ott was just getting started on her painting at space No. 96. She had already drawn a design in chalk of a radio with sound waves coming out of it and planned to paint the waves in vibrant colors.
“You know where you see music? Synesthesia, I think it’s called. I don’t have it, but I think it’s cool,” she said.
Ott said she searched psychedelic images on Pinterest for inspiration. She said translating the design to asphalt was challenging.
“It’s easy on paper, but once you get into, like, a huge landscape … it gets really difficult,” she said.
She expected it would take her the whole day.
As Papier watched Ott paint a tan background with a small brush, she suggested Ott use a roller and asked the other students if anyone had one.
“The pavement just sucks up the paint,” Papier said. “I tell them to dump the paint out and spread it.”
Papier said the students are responsible for their own paint, which can be expensive. Next year she plans to reach out to home improvement stores to see if they will help supply students with paint. She will also encourage students to find other sources, like getting leftover paint from relatives and friends.
Papier said painting fever is catching.
“Now the teachers want to paint their parking spaces, too,” she said.
But come next summer, all of the hard work will disappear. Students are required to cover their painting with black paint, provided by the school, after they graduate.
“I hate that,” McCraw said. “They’re so pretty right now, and it’s going to be depressing to paint over it at the end of the year.”
Inspired by this year’s paintings, Papier said, underclassmen are thinking ahead.
“The juniors are already planning out their spots for next year,” she said. “They’re excited.”
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HIGH POINT — Billy Riley on Thursday officially received the key to his new home, a cinder block cottage on a former campground.
The 54-year-old Navy veteran is the first person to move into the Heroes Center, a housing facility and community center for those who have served in the military.
“They took the opportunity to help me, and also I’ve been given an opportunity to help them,” he said. “This is a door opening.”
The Heroes Center began in 2013 as Heal Our Heroes, a nonprofit founded by Vietnam veteran Bob Uber. Two years ago the organization began leasing property from the John Wesley Camp in High Point. Crews have spent the past 18 months refurbishing the buildings on the site, which include two cottages, a dining hall with a communal kitchen, and a dorm that will eventually house 18 veterans. Another building, adjacent to the site, will be converted into classrooms.
ABC Supply donated materials and Your Roofing Co. put a new roof on the dorm. Brush was trimmed, sod put in, and a slab of concrete laid down for a parking lot. Workers also tore down a barn that had been on site.
“It was an empty, 6,000-square foot eyesore, and we couldn’t get insurance on the property because of that,” said Victor Jones, Heroes Center chairman and a High Point City Council member. “But once we got that demolished we were able to move forward.”
Money for the renovations has come from private donations and fundraisers sponsored by various businesses around town. The Heroes Center has also received grants from the High Point Community Foundation and Home Depot.
Jones, who served 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, said veterans need “a place to transition back into the workforce.” Many of the veterans who will live at the center will be attending Guilford Technical Community College or going through job training programs.
“This is also a way for the community to give back to those who’ve served their country,” he said. “We’re going to be putting together some workforce development programs, where we’ll have companies come here and train people onsite.”
Riley served active duty in the Navy from 1986 to 1990, and in the reserves from 1998 to 2003. During those periods, he served as a hospital corpsman, was a scuba diver, and fueled airplanes. Alcoholism, as he explained, “took the best of me,” but he’s been sober for five years. He had previously been living in housing provided by Caring Services, a substance abuse treatment center. Eventually, he hopes to start his own company repairing houses.
At the moment he’s helping to repair the cottage next to his, installing flooring, cabinetry and countertops. When it’s finished he will move into it, and another veteran will move into the cottage he’s in now.
Workers are still in the process of fixing the big dorm building.
On Thursday, Riley received his key from Jones during a ceremony (though he had actually moved in earlier), and was bringing boxes inside.
Among the decor was a cloth wall hanging with American flag hearts on it that read “Home Sweet Home.”
He said that is “important to look at” as a reminder of what he now has.