"It's beautiful!" Leiah Castro said when she first saw the larger-than-life mural of the CHamoru Chief Gadao on the side of her middle school.

Castro is a seventh-grade student at Inarajan Middle School. She and other students were surprised by the visual treat when campuses were allowed to reopen and the more traditional face-to-face learning started in January.

"I feel very happy when I go to school and I see something very beautiful and eye-catching!" she said. "It also makes me proud to be a Warrior."

Chief Gadao is the legendary chief of Inalåhan, so the mural represents the entire village. But it also is a representation of the school's mascot, the Warrior, according to seventh-grade teacher Angela Anderson.

Anderson said the mural was completed in December.

"Overall, the students were happy with how the mural added color and life to the campus," she stated. "We've also had a great response from the families of our students, most especially the Inarajan residents. Many of them have expressed a great appreciation for the art work (Lee San Nicolas) created for the students and the village community. It's definitely becoming a landmark in the village."

Anderson and the school's parent teacher organization came up with the idea for the mural, according to a press release from the school. The parent teacher organization is known as the MITY PATSSC – Merizo, Inarajan, Talofofo, Yona Parents, Administrators, Teachers, Staff, Students, Community.

They applied for the Guam Economic Development Authority's Qualifying Certificate Community Contribution Grant Program to fund its project in August 2020. The program supports local nonprofit organizations involved in health, public safety, higher education, sports and cultural preservation.

'Honored and grateful'

"The breathtaking mural was designed and painted by local artist, Lee San Nicolas," states the release announcing the mural.

San Nicolas is a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School and the University of Guam. He has created many popular art pieces throughout the island.

"I'm very honored and grateful to have participated in this art project for the school and its students," said San Nicolas. "The school staff was extremely helpful, and I had a blast creating this wonderful piece."

Some of his notable work includes: the "Marianas Trench" floor mural in front of the Guam Congress Building; the "Mamba Mentality" mural in Hagåtña; the "Ayuyu" mural in Anigua; the "Håfa Adai" mural inside the Agana Shopping Center; and a swimming turtle in Agat that promotes environmental awareness.

"At a time of pandemic weariness, it is uplifting to know there is still support for inspiring projects in art and culture for education," the press release states. "The faculty and staff of IMS have been warriors during this pandemic, and the IMS warrior mural is a powerful reminder of that fact."

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