Long Beach Poly is raising money for a new mural that’s all about inclusion

The Long Beach Poly High School campus is a historic landmark in the city and it’s going to get more beautiful this year thanks to special education teacher Indira C. Jimenez and her students.

Jimenez is raising money to put a mural on the wall of the outdoor sensory space she created for Poly students on the autism spectrum or any students with different sensory needs. It includes a trio of garden beds and a barefoot path that will soon be joined by the mural titled “The Tree of Life.”

“It’s a great spot but there just wasn’t anything there; it wasn’t inviting,” Jimenez said. “I wanted it to reflect the special disabilities that are out there that people don’t want to see or it’s not that important to them because the population is so small.”

The mural, designed by local artist Enrique Brito, features a moon and sun with the tree of life in the middle. It also includes some of the international handicap symbols and butterflies.

“Nature is not being respected and all of the destruction we see is because of how we behave with nature,” Brito said. “We have our own lifestyle that is disconnected with nature. The kids can see the tree and think about what trees do for us like cleaning the environment.”

Artist Enrique Brito in the sensory garden space at Poly High where his mural will be painted. Photo courtesy Indira C. Jimenez.

“We also used the butterfly to symbolize how we pass through this planet and that nothing is the same, it’s always changing,” Brito added.

Jimenez has been cultivating the outdoor sensory space since she arrived at Poly in 2011 after working at Hudson and Garfield Elementary schools in Long Beach. Poly teachers donated their time and money to the project when it was just about getting a monarch butterfly, succulent and native California plant gardens started. Jimenez has a garden club that helps her tend the soil after school, and she also has her students work in the gardens at lunch.

Brito heard about how the special-needs students were having trouble adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions and having their field trips taken away, so he decided that he wanted the students and teachers at Poly to help him paint the 54 by 14-foot mural. It would usually take him about two weeks to finish the project, but he said he’s willing to work longer with more sessions to include more help from people on campus.

“I want them to be part of the mural instead of just watching me paint,” Brito said. “I want them to feel like this is our mural so they can protect and take care of the mural.”

Jimenez started accepting donations this week and has already raised over $1,000 of the $6,825 she needs to complete the project.

“This is all about inclusion,” Jimenez said. “I hope more campuses in the Long Beach Unified School District also create an outdoor wellness area.”

Donations will be recognized in the school/district newsletter, and checks can be made payable to Polytechnic High School Long Beach (memo: Poly Garden Club acct (2215-50). A link to the donation form is available here.

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