In order to earn a diploma from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, students are required to take one semester of government class. The course details the U.S. Constitution, explains local and presidential elections and describes the inner workings of Congress.
Only offered during the senior year of high school, a student who fails government class will have to repeat the 12th grade.
Class of 2000 graduates Amanda Hunt and Rashell Eberly were determined not to serve a fifth year at Soldotna High School.
Government classes throughout the school district are notorious for lesson plans that contain point-heavy assignments that bear enough weight on their own to prevent a student from receiving a passing grade.
According to Hunt and Eberly, Dan Harbison's government class is no exception. Harbison assigned his students to team up with one another and think of community-service projects that would benefit the city of Soldotna.
"This was the big project for the semester. If we didn't do it, we would fail," Hunt said.
Harbison's students completed 41 projects. Groups performed fund raising for the high school, created Web sites, tutored students, designed and constructed structures and also performed bank restoration along Soldotna creek.
Hunt and Eberly said they realized the importance of the tourism industry to Soldotna and they wanted to do something that would be enjoyed by both out-of-towners and locals.
Eberly said she thought the assignment would be easiest if she could incorporate her artistic talent. Eberly is a published artist. Her work has been featured on the cover of the Sterling Senior Center cookbook.
"We decided to paint a mural to hang on the wall at Poacher's Cove. We wanted to do a nature scene for the tourists," Hunt said. "The government part was that we had to work with the city to make it happen."
To get the help of the city, the two turned to city hall, where they were assisted by Kathy Woodford, head administrative assistant to City Manager Tom Boedeker. Woodford said she thought the mural would improve the area's appearance.
Woodford said the city had $10,000 in the budget for $500 mini grants. To get the funding, the girls would have to present their proposal to a mini grant committee.
"Kathy set everything up. She was very helpful," Hunt said.
Hunt and Eberly also had to go before the Soldotna City Council for approval. They received a green flag, and it was agreed that the wall down Knight Drive would be the perfect location.
Another painting, by an uncredited artist, already hangs on the wall. It features a dipnetter being watched by two moose. A floatplane is painted in the sky. It is flying under the big dipper.
Hunt and Eberly received financial support from Spenard Builder's Supply. The hardware store donated supplies, and the two said their art project required lots of supplies.
The mural is 32-feet long and covers eight sheets of plywood. The artists used eight colors, including two shades of blue. The scene displays a large brown bear walking along the rocky shore of the Kenai River.
"I'm just glad that the mountains lined up," Eberly said.
According to the two, painting on such a large scale was difficult.
"The room we used to work on this was too small," Hunt said. "We could only fit two sheets in at a time."
Hunt said that after completing a panel it would have to be moved out into the hallway to dry.
"We got paint on my mother's carpet," she said.
Hunt and Eberly worked on their painting over Christmas vacation. Since both held jobs, it wasn't always easy to find time to get together.
After four months of creative thinking, writing up proposals, requesting funds and painting, all eight panels were complete. The final task was to get the sheets mounted, which was impossible during winter.
"The city held onto the sheets for us," Hunt said. "They were so great. They built the frame."
City maintenance workers posted the mural July 21.
Hunt and Eberly said they are proud of their work. They would recommend that students in Harbison's class next year choose wisely when deciding on a project.
"It doesn't have to be huge," Eberly said.
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