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Memory Project 2023: Using Art to Spread International Kindness & Understanding

Memories are what make us human, and the memories we form during our school years are often quite significant: this is when we learn who we are, and develop the skills and strengths that will serve us well throughout our lives.

At Delphian, which is renowned for offering students a unique, experiential learning environment, our children thrive on deep involvement. So our art students were especially excited to participate in The Memory Project, which allowed them to share their hearts with Nigerian children, many of whom do not have parents or other guardians to care for them.

Making Memories Makes Meaning

A University of Wisconsin graduate, Ben Schumaker, created The Memory Project because he was passionate about promoting cultural understanding and kindness among young people around the world, using art as the medium to connect them.

Inspired by Ben's vision, in 2023 fourteen Delphian School art students brought their creative hands and open hearts to the program, using their talents to craft both digital and handmade portraits of children in Nigerian orphanages. The art students sent the original art to the children in Nigeria as a gesture of love and friendship, and kept copies of their work to remember the faces of their friends on the other side of the world.

Art From The Heart

While Delphian's robust fine arts program regularly produces award-winning pieces, there's something special about art from the heart that catalyzes connection and joy, as The Memory Project's immense success illustrates. Over the past 20 years, 320,000 students from 57 countries have put themselves in another's shoes through art.

Ben's original intent with The Memory Project, launched when he was a student himself, was to provide personal portraits for children growing up in orphanages, who did not have many keepsakes from their earliest years. He wanted the portraits to honor each child's unique identity and personal story.

As time went on, The Memory Project began focusing on children in other kinds of challenging life situations as well, such as those facing war, neglect, and poverty. But the overarching goal has always been to create cross-cultural connection and understanding that nurtures both the art creators and recipients.

Today, The Memory Project works with partner charities in many countries that send in thousands of photos annually of children who would cherish a personal portrait from an art student.

Identity Is Who We Are

What if a student wants to contribute to this kindness initiative but doesn't have any portrait skill? Not to worry; The Memory Project has this covered, too. If you'd like to create art for a student, you're invited to make a piece of Identity Art. Identity Art features a child's name, together with several positive words they've chosen to describe themselves.

Just like portrait art, Identity Art honors each child's identity, supports their self-esteem, and shares kindness and respect among children of different cultural backgrounds.

Your "Backstory" Makes It Personal

On the back of each piece of artwork, The Memory Project asks student artists to place a good quality photo of themselves holding their portrait or Identity Art piece, so each recipient can see who made this special gift for them.

The artists also draw their hand on the back of the picture. Thus, the recipient is able to symbolically "touch hands" with the artist. Sweet! Inside the hand, the art student writes their name, age, and a simple, uplifting message that's easy to understand.

These additional touches make the entire project extremely personal — a lot like having pen pals was in the pre-digital era.

The children's caregivers express how deeply meaningful these portraits and Identity Art pieces are — much more so than the artists may realize. Ben says the caregivers report, "Receiving such a personal gift from someone so far away, who has never even met them, is something they will never forget."

Thank you for your open-hearted gift to a distant friend, Delphian artists!

Delphian Featured in Study International's Top U.S. Boarding Schools

It's a big world out there, yet it's growing smaller all the time with our growing global connectedness and ability to live and work anywhere via our devices. So savvy parents and students are taking the time and initiative to select the schools that best fit their child's unique educational desires and abilities.

Study International is one key resource facilitating this pivotal decision-making process. The site's voluminous information covers everything a family needs to know, from application, to enrollment, to graduation and beyond, from early childhood to postgraduate studies, and every degree in between.

That's why we're thrilled to be featured as one of Study International's top U.S. boarding schools — no small feat on a site that gets 1.2 million unique visitors each month.

You'll Never Be Bored at Our Boarding School

At 45, Delphian School is a midlife adult, but its heart is a perpetual student. As an international boarding school, "curiosity" is our middle name, and "unconventional" our watchword.

Unlike typical schools, Delphian eschews grade levels in favor of student proficiency. So if you're a middle-school-age child who's reading at the 12th grade level, we'll direct you to books that challenge and excite your intellect. You won't be bored silly reading something written for students with a lower reading comprehension level.

You won't be stuck behind a desk, either. Because Delphian is situated on 720 rolling acres of hills, forest and farmlands, there's plenty of time and space to go exploring and learn subjects such as science and math organically. As our students say, Delphian doesn't just teach you how to get good grades, but how to learn for the rest of your life. Mastering critical thinking allows you to absorb, use and evolve what you learn as you grow toward becoming an independent, confident adult.

Delphian's holistic, well-rounded focus means we start with a core curriculum of academic subjects such as math, history, languages, science, the arts, and literature, then expand far beyond this to encourage our students to explore complementary areas such as music, theater, film production and digital art. What melds all of this subject matter into a cohesive whole is a strong commitment to ethics, leadership, integrity, communication, and human rights.

Did we mention creativity? At Delphian, creativity ranks right up there with curiosity, communication, connection, collaboration, and commitment.

So we might say that when you matriculate at Delphian, you'll be sailing the high seas of boarding school excellence!

Best Boarding School Benefits

If you're just beginning your educational research, here are some of the benefits of a boarding school education in North America. Delphian embodies them all:

  • Independence. Learning self-reliance is important for all children, and boarding school accelerates this process. Living away from home, students learn how to better manage their time and resources. There's nobody looking over your shoulder, asking whether you've done your homework. And if the room is messy, guess who's responsible for tidying it up?
  • Collaboration. The flip side is teamwork: learning how to play well with others on a daily basis, to compromise and cooperate. Boarding school students will meet children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Frequently, these connections lead to close friendships that will last all their lives.
  • Academic rigor. At the best boarding schools, students will find that their peers are focused on excelling in their studies, so the temptation to goof off or mindlessly scroll on phones is noticeably absent. It's the best kind of peer pressure!
  • Extracurricular zest. The range of potential extracurricular activities is typically far more extensive than in public schools, both because at boarding schools, the entire educational curriculum takes place onsite, and because boarding schools are funded by donors who want the enrollees to have the best possible school experience.
  • Values. A boarding school such as Delphian places a powerful emphasis on moral character: integrity, honor, respect, honesty, hard work, etc., so that graduates leave well-prepared to become productive, grounded individuals capable of forging an extraordinary future.

Teen Power: Transforming Communities for Good

Ask any Delphian School alum to name five fond memories from their time here and they’re sure to mention at least one school field trip. Our amazing faculty and staff are known for planning and executing incredible excursions, like our Business Seminar students’ recent eight-day journey across California.

Our alums are also quick to mention the unmatched spirit of service that comes with the territory here. Our unique approach to self-directed instruction is a natural fit for service-oriented learning, which the world needs more than ever today. 

Feeding Oregon’s neediest families

So it only makes sense that a group of our middle school students took it upon themselves to spend a recent field trip doing right by Oregon’s neediest families. In the course of a single day at a local food processing facility, the students repacked nearly 8,300 pounds of food, representing about 6,900 meals for families in need. 

Translation: each student individually packed 255 meals (and about 275 pounds of food) on their own. Whew! 

All that food went a long way. If we assume (for simplicity’s sake) that each family eats three meals per day, our students packed enough food to last one family about six years four months. Of course, all that food didn’t go to just one household. It was enough to keep 328 families fed for a week straight, or 2,300 families fed for a day.

However you slice it, that’s an impressive impact for fewer than 30 students to make in a single day.

A small token of hope for African orphans

And it’s not the only way Delphian School students are doing good in local and global communities. Another group of students — 14 in all — recently participated in the Memory Project, an art initiative that provides handmade portraits to children in orphanages across the world. Started by a University of Wisconsin graduate named Ben Schumaker, the Memory Project furthers cross-cultural understanding and gives disadvantaged children hope for the future.

“Together, we are using art to reach a distant destination: a kinder world in which all youth see themselves in one another regardless of differences in appearance, culture, religion, or circumstances,” says Schumaker.

The destination for this past year’s portraits (a mix of digital and hand-drawn art) was Nigeria, where far too many children live without parents or older guardians. The Delphian School students kept copies of their work and sent the originals across the ocean.

Bringing Earth Day to life

Back closer to home, our middle schoolers have settled into a productive Earth Day routine: cleaning up and planting greenery in communities like McMinnville, Oregon. 

It’s a great way for them to get outside, honor the spirit of Earth Day, and burn off some of their boundless energy. And it’s great for the planet!

Our students are smart enough to know that they can’t solve every earthly problem themselves. But through initiatives like feeding food-insecure Oregonians, sending artwork to orphans on another continent, and beautifying the communities they call home, they learn valuable lessons about the power of selfless service. And that’s truly worth celebrating.


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