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DALLAS When school's in session at Emmett J. Conrad High, nearly half the kids are refugees from war-torn parts of the world. And day after day, what do they see to inspire them?

Blank walls.

To fire up his kids, Assistant Principal Garet Feimster had a unique idea: Invite colleges and universities (like SMU and the University of North Texas) to paint their logos on the institutional school walls.

'Part of that reason is, they don't know what's out there; our students don't know what available to them,' he said. 'A lot of them are just trying to figure out what it's like to be American. So they need a little bit more guidance on, 'Hey, this is what you can do when you leave here in four years,' he said.

But when Feimster invited students from the nearby Art Institute of Dallas to paint their logo, Feimster got far more than he expected.

'The hallway when we first got here was very institutional and gray; very drab,' said David Lipe, director of design at the Art Institute of Dallas.

Not anymore.

Instead of painting their logo, the students painted an entire wall 160 feet long showing all the things students can learn in art school... if they go to college.

'I'm hoping at least a couple of kids look at this mural and think, 'I want to go to college,'' said student Kimberly Conn.

The mural is high-profile, on display outside the Conrad High cafeteria.

And its execution turned out to be far more difficult than the art students and staff had initially planned, requiring 8 to 10-hour work days for a month.

But they hope there's a lesson in there, too.

'It has been a grueling month, painting this thing,' student Randy Appling conceded. 'But it's been very rewarding.'

Recent graduate Priya Blackledge agreed. 'It's a big task, but if you take your time and follow through, you can accomplish anything, and I'm hoping the mural shows them that.'

That's what Assistant Principal Feimster thinks, too.

'It's awesome! It's amazing!' he said.

So good, he hopes the crew from the Art Institute of Dallas comes back for more. There's lots of need here... and plenty of walls.


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