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Sahuarita high school students create art for the community

Students design tiles to cover trash barrel and bench to be displayed in town
Sahuarita High School Public Art Project
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jun 21, 2024

SAHUARITA, Ariz. (KGUN) — This summer, students at Sahuarita High School are gaining invaluable work experience and contributing to their community through a unique program that blends creativity with civic engagement.

Despite the break from regular classes, a group of dedicated students is hard at work on a special art project that will soon be showcased around town.

The sounds of grout mix fills the air as these young artists race to meet their tight three-week deadline to create custom tiles that will beautify some of the town’s utilities.

"So it’s a trash can all the way around,” explained Draven Martinez, a student involved in the project, on where the tiles would be placed. “Then the bench we’re doing the sides, like the bottom and the part you rest your back against."

This initiative is part of the Transportation Art by Youth program, funded by the Pima Association of Governments.

The program not only provides summer jobs for teens but also focuses on creating public works of art that benefit the community.

Joseph Poore, an art teacher at SHS helping to run the program, elaborated on the program’s goals.

"We hire high school students and we employ them hourly to design, create, and install public works projects throughout town," Poore said.

Beyond the artistic skills gained, students also get an insider’s look at local government operations.

"They see how decisions are made in government,” Poore said. “And how it’s sort of a slow process of back and forth, getting approval or getting requests to adjust."

One of the program’s key elements is teaching students the importance of collaboration.

"A lot of times artistic pursuits are very individualistic,” Poore said. “But in this case, everybody sort of has to work together on the same ideas."

This week a cement slab was set down this week on Pima Mine Road, where the finished trash barrel and bench will be located. According to the Parks and Recreation Department, this installation is scheduled for the week of June 24.

For students like Mia Ramirez, a 2024 SHS graduate, the experience is more than just a summer job.

"It’s a privilege,” she said. “I go from like 8 to 12 then I get to go home, and I get to know that I’ve done something for my community too."

Joel Foster is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9 who previously worked as an English teacher in both Boston and the Tucson area. Joel has experience working with web, print and video in the tech, finance, nonprofit and the public sectors. In his off-time, you might catch Joel taking part in Tucson's local comedy scene. Share your story ideas with Joel at, or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram or X.