Senior Wildcats personalize parking spaces

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Ernesto Talavera Jr. admires his completed parking space. Class of 2020 members decorated individual slots after payment, allowing use during school hours for the entire term.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Don’t hesitate to look down at the ground when you walk on campus. There are 51 individual vehicle slots available in the senior parking lot adjacent to Morenci High School. Not all of them are used every day and not all senior students drive or have a vehicle.

Colorful artwork adorns the senior parking lot. It is a student council fund-raising project enacted and put in effect after the holiday break last year. Several slots were sold, but only four were painted. The weather, time-intensive class assignments or several other factors may have accounted for undecorated slots.

“We wanted to get more participation from the senior class,” student council sponsor Alexa Aguilera said. “Seniors can personalize their lockers, but not many of them do. We thought more of them would decorate a parking space (because of the higher visibility).”

So far this year, six of 82 senior students have decorated their lockers and 17 a parking slot. They paid $40 for the right to park in the same slot during school hours for the entire term. One took an hour-and-a-half to complete while others took two weeks. Most slots include a name and the 2020 graduation year someplace on them.

Seniors began decorating specific slots since paying for the right to do so during registration week in mid-July. Not all of them have completed their chosen slot. Some have yet to decide what to put, some are limited in how much time they can devote to it because of class assignments or a part-time job, and some have limited available resources.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Marcus Adams watches Keanna Cortez decorate a fishing lure on his parking slot.

Students found themselves in a learning mode before classes started for the term. Some learned friends and family members were willing to give their time to lend a hand, some learned what kind of paint works best, how best to use it, how to dress to use it, and the proper tools to use, including paint can openers, gloves and roller handles.

Some students could not tell you if they were using oil or water-based paint, a key indicator of whether paint thinner or water was required for clean-up. Some utilized math skills or a projector to enlarge images or lettering, tape measures to mark specific increments, masking tape to block off an area or get straight edges and symmetry, and others were willing to pay someone to do the job for them.

“I learned it takes a lot of paint to cover a little parking space,” Ernesto Talavera Jr. said. He expected his parents, Yvonne and Ernesto, would help him but did not anticipate his Aunt Melissa and Uncle Esteban to also lend a hand. He is grateful to all four.

Talavera’s slot took nearly 11 hours over two days to complete. It includes a starting line, a pair of checkered flags for a finish line, the 2020 graduation year in yellow, the white-colored phrase “running late but still on time” in a san serif type, and his last name colored red in Old English, all on a black basecoat. His uncle hand-lettered the last name. In addition to paints, brushes, and rollers, a tape measure, masking tape, chalk, and mental calculations were an intricate part of the tool arsenal used.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Transfer Kayleigh Kolden applies a chalk mark for a facial expression.

“I learned it took a long time to paint the space,” Anthony Hudman said. It took two days for him to do the blue basecoat and two weeks total to complete his project. He has a tortoise centered in a rainbow-colored sea along with his student government position listed. His mother helped while he worked his part-time job.

“I learned it took a lot of work (to complete),” Angel Ontiveros said. “My family helped a lot.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Desiree Babb learned how to dress for painting under the summer sun following her initial session.

It took two weeks total to complete her mural, a white basecoat with a cherry blossomed tree overlooking a blood-red moon, her name, and year of graduation.

“I learned a quart of paint wasn’t going to be enough for a base coat,” Marcus Adams said. “So, I went and got a gallon.”

His slot includes his last name, 2020, the words “gone fishin’,” a fish dangling from a lined rod and a lure decorated with colored chalks, covered with a clear-coat spray. It did not last very long. He will use spray can paint to re-do it. Friends assisted him, but a part-time job leaves few time blocks for that since school is in session.

“I learned you need long sleeves, pants, a hat, and shoes,” Desiree Babb said. She was initially clad in shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals before taking on her project the morning before classes started and becoming splattered in paint.

Her slot has a white base coat, the words “This is where…Desiree parks,” a pair of coffee cups, and her graduation year. It took multiple sessions with the aid of a friend to complete.

“I had already worked with paint and knew latex paint is what I needed,” Angel Arrellin said. He asked at Ace Hardware to be sure. It took two hours to complete his plain red basecoat and black block “M,” using math to calculate the letter’s size and masking tape for straight lines.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The checkered flagstaffs are painted silver by Ernesto Talavera Sr., left, and his son, Ernesto Talavera Jr.

“I learned its hard (work),” Reona Alvarez said. “I wanted it to look good.”

She did math calculations and taped it off to make sure her outlined “R” was even. It is filled in with three alternating colored triangles. She had help during the four hours over two days, two each day, it took to complete.

“I learned it’s hard to paint a parking space,” Madison Vaughn said. She had an adult help her with the lettering and it took 7-8 hours over two days to complete. It has a blue-gray background, a pink bow and gecko, her first name in cursive white, her year of graduation, and “If you stumble make it a part of your routine.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Three hands cover more space than one as family time on the parking lot includes painting a checkered starting line.

“It took more paint than I had,” Tristan Williams said. His slot has a large red block with the letters “T & F” in black on it, for track and field, and a smaller one with a “T” on it for his first name initial.

“I learned to express myself,” Mariah Gipson said. “I like it.”

Her space took one-and-a-half hours with the aid of friends over two days to complete. It includes her name in white lettering outlined in black over a pink basecoat.

“I learned you can have someone do it for you,” Shaun Espinoza said. “I like it.”

His last name is in green on a white cloud along with “Class of 2020” in cursive lettering.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Mother and son paint Old English last name in red.

“I learned I could pay someone to do it (and did),” Connor Vaughn said. His slot took two days to complete. It has crossed tools, his last name in cursive white, his year of graduation, and a U.S. Army logo.

Dominik Vigil also hired someone to do his slot. It has a multi-colored silhouette with “best day ever” along with his student government position.

“They don’t have a senior parking lot in Thatcher,” transfer student Kayleigh Kolden said. “They just have one big parking lot.”

Her “We outta here” with an image of a crowned ‘ET’ sticking his tongue out artwork remains unfinished.

“I ran out of paint,” she said.

Denise Garcia simply painted a solid blue background with the letters “L” and “A” on top, for her favorite baseball team. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently lead the National League West by double-digit games, with 24 left to play in September. She has transferred to an out-of-state school and no longer parks there.

During the past three years, the student council has given out $2,000 in scholarships to 21 graduating seniors, 10 in 2017, six in 2018, and five in 2019.

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