For years, high school students had complained about the color of the school’s interior, a salmon and teal pattern. Many people believe the color scheme came from a time when the mascot was the raptors – a dinosaur – and that the mascot later became the red devil. But GCHS Principal Stephen Hren dispelled that myth.
“We have always been the Red Devils and there have been times, in the past history of our school, various entities wanted to change the mascot,” Hren said. “However, the colors in the school have nothing to do with trying to change the mascot. The principal at the time was looking for softer colors and not really thinking about our red and white colors. She was looking for more of a Southwest color… that’s how we ended up with the color scheme.”
In recent years, students have pushed for the school to be painted red and white. And while some areas were redone, such as the tiling inside the bathrooms, the majority of the school remained salmon and teal.
“Lots of people were really unhappy with how the doors and the commons were painted,” said Henderson. “...A lot of people said before student government elections that they’d repaint it, but it never happened. I wanted to be the guy who got things done. So I said ‘we can do this.’”
Maralee Francis, the GCHS student government adviser, was skeptical of Henderson’s promise. She said she “cringed” when she heard him make the pledge.
“I think if I typed up a list of what any student council candidate says in their campaign speech, and showed it to them a year later, they’d be mortified,” Francis said. “And [after he was elected] I was worried this was going to be one of those things as the year went on… He’d promised red and white in the commons, and it looked like it wasn’t going to get done.”
But Henderson developed a detailed plan of action and presented it to the school administration. His proposal was simple: select a particular area of the school to paint, find experienced adults to help oversee and guide the project, and rely on fellow GCHS students to complete the actual painting. Donations would cover the materials.
The administration quickly approved the project, so Henderson set a date during the 2012 summer holiday, found student volunteers, and the work began.
Henderson said getting the plan approved was simple. “I just wrote a little speech for [GCHS vice principle Lance] LeVar saying how we would do it and how it would increase school pride and found six or seven kids to come down to the office with me for support,” Henderson said. “He was very open to the idea. The way we were doing it, we were saving the school a lot of money. That was one of the big reasons why it wasn’t done before, because the school would have had to hire professional painters and everything and it just would have been too expensive. But we were planning on doing it on donations and volunteer work. Thankfully, LeVar trusted us enough, and he let us do it.”
It turned out to be a considerably bigger job than either of them had expected.
“It was a circus,” said Henderson, laughing. “Trying to find a guy for the paint, people to do it, setting down the schedule… We had a deal on the paint with a guy for $100, but when we went down to the store, they hadn’t heard about it so it ended up being more like $300 after all these complications. But it worked out and yeah, we got it done.”
“He really pushed the plan,” said Francis. “He got professionals involved, he had it planned out and had instructions, wrote up a proposal and a timeline for it. I’ve been very impressed that... he followed it through, and how well he organized it and worked it all through with the administration and painters.”
With volunteers, supervisors, and materials taken care of, Henderson and 10 other students, mostly underclassmen, taped off the doors and frames in the commons of the high school and got to work. “It was really time-consuming,” one volunteer said. “We spent a lot of time on the trim, on ladders, and there were a lot of details that you had to pay attention to.”
After several weeks, the work was finished and plans are tentatively in place to extend the painting to other areas of the school. Currently, the entryway to the school, all doors leading off of the commons, and the trim on the windows into the library and cafeteria have now been painted red and white.
Henderson stressed that it was a group effort.
“It wasn’t just me, it was everybody. It was those same people coming out every day,” he said. “I just really want to say thank you to everybody who came out and who took the time and sacrificed to come work for their school and really make it a better place.”